A Cheated Husband
Here's something to think about: even little things can destroy your life. An example: If it hadn't been our 16th Wedding Anniversary, Marianne and I would have been eating dinner at one of our usual favorite places, instead of the fanciest restaurant in Cleveland. If it hadn't been such a fancy restaurant, I wouldn't have seen her face as she sat down--I would have been standing behind her and holding her chair, instead of letting a waiter do it. If I hadn't seen her face, I would have missed the little grimace of discomfort as her bottom touched the chair.
She saw my concerned look, and before I could ask anything she said, "Just a muscle cramp—my calf is sore today for some reason." Then she quickly went on to change the subject: "Oh Tom, what a beautiful restaurant this is. Thank you for bringing me here tonight!"
Here's something else to think about: Often we know something long before we realize that we know it. Marianne's grimace was a face she had made before, when she was suffering from what we jokingly called the "Honeymoons". When we were first married, on one of our honeymoon nights in Puerto Rico we had a lot to drink, and made love so vigorously (and so often) that the next day her pussy lips were sore and swollen, and it was uncomfortable for her to sit down. We had to take a day or two off from regular fucking, though we found many other ways of giving each other pleasure! The same thing happened during our "Second Honeymoon" six years later, when we left the kids with my parents and spent a week in Cancun. One exciting and passionate night of sex led to two days of soreness for Marianne —thus the name "Honeymoons".
Since then our sex life had calmed down quite a bit, as I guess it does for pretty much every married couple raising children, and the "Honeymoons" had not happened again. But the look on Marianne's face on our Wedding Anniversary was the "Honeymoons" look, and I recognized it right away, though I didn't realize until later that I had.
In fact our anniversary dinner was wonderful, and so was the rest of the evening, though not without a surprise—again, one whose meaning I didn't understand until later. Throughout dinner we shared great food, two bottles of champagne, and lots of happy memories. We talked about our two teenagers, both away for the summer at camp. We laughed about the awkwardness of our early dates in college, and about how it took a few tries until we knew what we were doing together in bed. Marianne had slept with two men before me—each of them only once, and without much pleasure. I'd had a steady girlfriend in high school, but she wouldn't let me fuck her until a month before graduation, and we'd done it only a few times before I left for college.
When Marianne and I got home from the restaurant—tipsy and very much in love—I carried her up to the bedroom and began to strip her naked, but she stopped me.
"Tom, wait. Let me put on the new nightie I bought just for tonight."
She disappeared into the bathroom, and by the time I was naked and in bed, she had emerged in a long pale blue nightgown that was nearly transparent. Her lovely breasts and perfect nipples showed clearly, as did the dark bush of her pubic hair. At 38 Marianne was gorgeous. The inevitable effects of bearing two children had been held at bay by good genes and lots of exercise (we ran 3 miles together at least twice a week). She was statuesque and magnificent—5'8" with dark hair and brown eyes, with wide hips and long legs. To me she was even sexier than when I first met her nearly two decades before. I had been in love with her—and in lust with her—ever since.
After some passionate necking and touching, I moved lower on the bed, seeking to raise her nightgown and arouse her with my tongue. Marianne adores it when I lick her, though she's much less enthusiastic about going down on me. Almost always our sex together includes some time with her enjoying my tongue and mouth between her legs. For this reason it surprised me when she stopped me.
"No, Tom, please. Tonight I want to be just for you." She gently forced me back down on the bed, stroked my cock, then took it into her mouth. When I reached for her pussy with my hands, meaning to pleasure her while she pleased me, she again stopped me.
"No, honey. Tonight has been so wonderful—let me just do this for you."
As I said, Marianne usually isn't so crazy about giving me blow jobs, but this one was sensational. She teased me, with her warm breath and her tongue and her lips and her hands. She got me close, then backed off with a wicked smile and stroked me softly, looking into my eyes and ignoring my groaning pleas to let me come. She licked down my shaft and lovingly took each of my balls in turn into her mouth, stimulating them gently with her tongue. Then she started it all over again! "Please, Anni, please! Let me come!" It must have been nearly half an hour of agonizing pleasure before she finished me off, taking me deep into her mouth and letting me shoot an enormous load of cum down her throat. My hips jerked and I groaned uncontrollably as the pleasure shot through me.
I lay there, spent and gasping. "Anni, that was unbelievable!" I said, using the pet name I often called her by during sex. By the time it had occurred to me that we hadn't fucked, and that I hadn't licked her or stroked her, the light was out and she was snuggled under my arm, relaxed and warm. When I once more said, "Honey, what about you?" she replied sleepily, "All for you tonight, darling."
So—why would I think about either of the strange little moments in the evening? No reason to. Who would care about a little grimace, or refuse a loving blowjob? No one. And that included me, until precisely eleven days later when my world began to crumble around me.
I had come back late Saturday night from a two-day conference in Chicago. I'm an engineer, and there was a meeting to discuss new federal load-bearing rules for commercial buildings. By the time I got home from the airport it was after 1 am, and I knew Marianne would be asleep. I stopped by the laundry room and took a minute to empty the dirty clothes out of my suitcase into the hamper. As I bent down, I noticed a pair of her panties that had fallen behind the hamper and were nearly hidden against the wall.
It was a silky black thong—in fact, her only thong, the one I had bought as a sexy present a year before and which she saved for special nights with me. Marianne is not a big fan of thongs—"They're not so bad if you feel like flossing your ass-crack!" is what she said to me once—but she wore that one a few times because she knew it excited me. I hadn't seen her wearing it in some time, but here it was, crusty and stiff on the crotch with what could only be a man's cum. One sniff confirmed the evidence of my eyes.
You know how sometimes in stories a character will claim "my head spun", and the reader thinks it's just a figure of speech? Well, my head spun. I felt dizzy and lightheaded, and I nearly tumbled to the floor. I kind of stumbled back into the kitchen and collapsed into a chair. I felt as though I had been hit in the back of the head with a 2 x 4.
Over the next few minutes my mind played every trick it could, as I tried desperately to make this something other than what it had to be. Could the panties have been lying there for months, since the last time she'd worn them with me? No—the hamper got moved every couple of weeks when the room was swept. Could she have worn them one day recently without me noticing? No—I saw her get dressed every morning. Could it have been my cum, from the last time we made love? No—that was three days before my trip, and she put on regular panties the next day. Could the mess in them be Marianne's own juices, maybe the result of a masturbation session while I was away? No—I knew what cum smelled like.
In the end, my mind caught up to what I already knew in my heart. My wife, the woman I had loved with my entire being for more than 16 years, was cheating on me. I didn't cry then; I was too stunned. I just sat and stared vaguely around the kitchen, drank a beer without tasting it, and let the inevitable questions pile up in my brain and stomp all my happiness to death. Who was it? How long? Did she love him? What would this mean for our marriage? Did we even have a marriage left? What would I do?
I am not one of those men who is turned on by the idea of their wives fucking another man. In fact, the idea doesn't give me a hard-on; it revolts me. I had never had fantasies about her with someone else. I didn't want her to screw someone else; I didn't want to watch it; I didn't want to think about it. And she knew that.
Marianne and I had made a commitment to one another to be faithful. I guess every married couple does, at least at the moment of the wedding, but we had also discussed it since then. At a neighborhood barbecue, about 8 years into our marriage, I'd been drawn aside by a casual friend, a nice but somewhat stuffy fellow named Harry. We sometimes made fun of him behind his back because he spoke in a kind of pedantic way, and was never without his pipe in his mouth. But a nice guy nonetheless. He took me for a short walk, and in a roundabout way told me that he and his wife Eileen were swingers, that they were attracted to Marianne and me, and that they hoped we might try swinging with them.
I was pretty shocked by this, but I calmly told him I'd think about it and discuss it with Marianne. But I said, "I don't know quite how to bring this up with her—I think she will find it pretty shocking." Harry just grinned at me. "Don't worry about that part, Tom," he replied. "Eileen is talking to Marianne about it right now!"
I was amused by how carefully they had planned it, and I promised Harry I'd speak to Marianne and let him know. I was at least a tiny bit tempted—Eileen was a short, curvy woman with a voluptuous figure, and also a lot of fun—but I couldn't imagine Marianne having any interest at all in swinging, or in Harry.
After the party, Marianne brought up the subject on our walk home before I could even say anything. "Can you believe that, Tom? Harry and Eileen swingers? And they want us to join them?"
"I was pretty surprised too, honey. I wish I could have seen your face when Eileen suggested that we swap with them."
Marianne laughed. "Well, I was taken aback. But I just politely said we'd talk about it, and let them know. No sense in saying something rude."
Later, in our bedroom, I returned to the topic. "Well, Marianne, do you have any interest in their offer?" "God, no, Tom!" she replied. "Can you imagine me in bed with that pompous man? Not in this lifetime!"
"But Marianne," I kidded her. "Don't you want to find out if he takes his pipe out of his mouth when he's fucking?" We both dissolved in laughter. It was clear that this wife-swapping invitation was not going anywhere!
I went on. "Honey, more seriously. We've never discussed the idea of swapping. I don't think it's anything I want to do, but are you tempted? Never mind Harry and Eileen—I mean with anyone?
She looked at me thoughtfully. "To be honest, Tom, I'm at least a bit curious. As you know there were only those two awful ... experiences I had in high school, and then no other man besides you in my life. So I can't help but wonder what it would be like with someone else. I love you and I love making love with you—it's not that I'm dissatisfied. I can't imagine finding a better lover. But I am a little curious."
She continued, "On the other hand, I don't want you having sex with anyone else! The thought of you holding and kissing another woman, of being between her legs, of putting your beautiful penis inside her, giving her the pleasure you give me—the idea of it makes be physically ill.. I want you all for myself! Our love-making is special to me because it's just for us, because neither of us ever shares ourselves with anyone else in that way."
I smiled at her, full of love for my amazing wife. "Anni, that's just how I feel. Sure I occasionally see a hot woman and have a brief fantasy—but our life together and the specialness of our sex are just too important to me. It's horrible even to imagine you with another man. I guess we are both just stick-in-the-muds, for whom marital fidelity actually matters!"
"Then come here, my stick-in-the-mud husband. I'm in the mood for some boring, maritally faithful sex!"
A few minutes later came the final, delightful surprise of that evening. As we fucked energetically in the doggy position, the two of us climbing towards orgasm, Marianne suddenly cried out, "Fuck me Harry! Give it to me, Harry—let me have that big dick of yours!"
I gasped, then collapsed in laughter along with Marianne. All thoughts of orgasm were forgotten as we howled together, tears of laughter running down our faces. I felt like the husband of the most wonderful woman in the world.
Now, as I thought back to that happy evening, my misery deepened. What had happened to the loving wife who was committed to ME, who had decided to refuse everyone else? I've always been a thoughtful and deliberate person—determined, but not quick to act until I knew everything about a situation. Even in my shock, and my despair, I already realized I had to know more. I couldn't confront Marianne, couldn't cry or yell or beat her or move out, until I knew the whole story.
The thought of making love to her in the next few days, of snuggling with her in bed, of pretending to be happy and in love when I actually felt like screaming, made me sick. How would I be able to hide my feelings from her? I actually thought for a moment, "How can I lie to my loving wife?" Then almost instantly came the answer: She's been lying to me! She's been cheating on me! She's been fucking God-knows-who behind my back, for God-knows how long!
By the time I climbed slowly up the stairs into my bedroom, it was after 2:30. Thank God I didn't have to face Marianne that night! When I got into bed, she murmured a hello without waking, and molded her body tightly up behind me, with an arm around my chest. I couldn't stand it! I wanted to cry. I wanted to kill her. I wanted her to tell me that this was just a horrible dream.
I hastily got back out of bed, pretending I needed to pee, and waited several minutes until I was sure she was completely asleep again. Then I crept back into bed, holding myself as far from her as possible, and stared open-eyed into the darkness, waiting for the most unlikely thing of all: sleep.
The next morning was Sunday, and I didn't awake until after 10:30—Marianne had let me sleep late. I could hear her downstairs, humming in the kitchen, and the smell of coffee wafted up to me. I stretched and yawned, smiling at the bright sunshine streaming in through the window. Perhaps a picnic today with Marianne? Then, after just a moment, the memory of what I had discovered the night before knocked the breath out of me, and the smile off my face. I remember thinking to myself that July 11th, the night of my return home, would probably forever be burned into my memory as the worst day of my life. But I was wrong about that: it turned out to be the 12th.
I sat and thought for a few minutes before going downstairs. How was I going to face her? I wasn't ready to talk about her cheating—I needed to know the details. But I've never been good at lying, either, and Marianne was quick to pick up on any little look on my face. I have always loved her sensitivity to my feelings, and those of others. She notices other people, their moods, their preferences, better than anyone I have known. That is surely part of why I loved her so much.
Unable to decide what to do, I headed down to the kitchen, vaguely thinking I'd just smile a lot and keep her from noticing how I was feeling. Well, THAT plan lasted all of about ten seconds.
"Hi sleepyhead", she greeted me with a warm smile and a mug of coffee. "I was afraid you'd miss this beautiful day! But I know you must have gotten in very late last night. How was the meeting?" Having just handed me the coffee, she took it back from me, put it on the kitchen table, and hugged me tightly to her, kissing the side of my neck. I hugged her back mechanically, aware of her warm body under the robe, having no idea what to say. I wanted to cry.
When we broke the hug I turned away, grabbing my coffee, and pretended to gaze out at the back yard. "Yes, it is a gorgeous day. I was thinking we might go down to Forbes Lake, take our swimsuits and a picnic, and spend the day down there."
"What a great idea!" she replied. "I've got lots of stuff for sandwiches, and it's too lovely a day to spend all of it indoors. However," she went on with a smile in her voice, "I think we have some unfinished business from last night to take care of first!" I knew what she meant—we always made love when either of us came back from a trip, but she had been asleep when I came upstairs the previous night.
At that moment all I could think about were her panties, covered with someone else's cum. The idea of fucking her unfaithful pussy filled me with anger and despair. As she started to draw me back to her, taking my hand and leading me towards the staircase, she saw on my face some of what was in my mind.
"You know you owe me at least two or three orgasms, and .... Tom—what is it? You look as though you've just seen a ghost in the yard!" Marianne stopped, let go of my hand, and looked carefully up into my face. "Are you not feeling well?"
"I'm sorry," I said. "I picked up a stomach bug on the trip, and I'm still feeling a little queasy. Perhaps we could postpone that debt I owe you until later?" I tried to make my voice cheerful, even teasing, but I could see from the look on Marianne's face that I had not completely succeeded.
"OK, honey. I'll pack some nice simple food, nothing fancy or spicy. Maybe a day in the sun will help you feel better." She still looked a bit doubtful, but she didn't question me any further. I took a quick shower, she packed us a lunch, and we drove down to our favorite lakeside picnic spot.
That afternoon was wonderful—and unbearably awful. We spent the day just as we would have if nothing had been wrong. We sat together on a blanket, sharing our lunch and talking about the children and about my trip. We put lotion on one another and lay in the warm sun working on our summer tans. We swam across the lake and back, then rested on the floating raft for a while before swimming in to shore. In late afternoon she took a nap, with her head resting on my chest, as I pretended to read the Sunday paper but actually suffered with thousands of painful thoughts and feelings. If I hadn't been in agony about her infidelity, it would have been a lovely, relaxing day spent with the woman I loved most in the world.
As we drove back towards town she asked, "Are you feeling better? You certainly seemed fine when we swam today."
"I'm still a bit tired, but I guess my stomach is a lot better."
"That's a good thing," she said with a laugh. "I'm planning to wear you out tonight!" She took one of my hands from the steering wheel and pulled the back of it to her lips, giving it a big kiss while smiling at me.
Her warmth and attention felt like a knife in my ribs. How could she possibly treat me with such obvious affection when she'd been getting banged by somebody else? Was all this warmth and love just a show, to keep me in the dark? Was it her way of dealing with guilty feelings? Was the wife that I had known for so long such a monster that she could be in love with someone else, yet act as though she were still in love with me?
At home we had an informal dinner, then cleaned up the kitchen together. We didn't talk too much—that was unusual for us, but I found it far less painful to be near Marianne if I didn't have to fake interest in some conversation while masking how I was really feeling. She clearly sensed that something was bothering me, but didn't press me on it.
Once the dishes were done, Marianne took my arm and with a broad smile, led me towards the bedroom. "Now it's time for what you owe me," she said.
I couldn't bear it—absolutely couldn't bear the thought of trying to make love to her, of caressing her body, of licking her or fucking her, while thinking about who else had been doing that to her.
I stopped partway up the stairs. "Actually, Marianne, could we talk for a minute first? I've got something on my mind." I hadn't meant to say anything, but I just couldn't keep it in.
Seeing from my face that the "something on my mind" was serious, Marianne just said, "of course, honey". We went back down to the living room, she sat on the sofa and I in a chair across from her.
I sat in silence for several minutes, having no idea how to begin. Finally I said, "Marianne, you know how much I love you, right?" "Of course," she replied, looking a little perplexed.
I went on. "I want you to know that our relationship is the most important thing in my life. I put it ahead of everything, except our children. It comes ahead of my career, of anything else. And I would never do anything to jeopardize it."
"Yes, honey," said Marianne, now looking a little suspicious. "I feel just the same way about you—you know that."
"Anni, if I had ever made a mistake about something that threatened our marriage, I would come to you and tell you about. I'd beg for your forgiveness, and do whatever it took to make up for it. I would never allow a secret to poison our relationship. And I hope you would feel just the same."
By now she looked—I don't know, impatient? Or was that a slightly worried expression? "Of course I would, Tom. What is this all about?"
I paused again for a moment, unable to go ahead. Then finally: "Anni, I found your thong panties in the laundry room, covered with cum. Are you having an affair? Please tell me the truth!"
As I blurted this out, in my agony, Marianne never moved. But she seemed to stiffen almost imperceptibly, and her face became very pale. Then, after no more than a few seconds, she smiled broadly and cheerfully spoke. "Oh, honey, is THAT what this is all about? How silly! Don't you remember? We made love on Thursday, the night before you left for Chicago. I put those on the next morning, after you left, because I missed you and wanted to think about you while you were gone. I guess you must have really filled me up, because I could feel myself oozing into them all that morning!"
I just looked into the smiling face of my wife, absolutely aghast. I remembered quite clearly—we had NOT made love that Thursday night, because I was up late preparing some documents for the meeting and she had gone to bed. The last time we had sex was a couple of days earlier. Marianne had just looked me right in the eye and lied to me! Pretty convincingly, too—it frightened me that the story she told, with complete composure, was so plausible that I might very well have believed it! Did she really think that I was so easy to deceive?
Full of pain and hurt, and absolutely staggered by her bold-faced lie, I didn't push her any further. What would be the point? Instead I muttered, "OK—I must have forgotten." And then, making a supreme effort to seem convinced, "I'm sorry to have accused you of such a ridiculous thing."
"Sweet darling," she replied, looking relieved. "What an imagination you have! Let's go upstairs and let me give you all the reassurance you can stand."
If you had told me, even two days earlier, that there would be a night when I dreaded fucking my wife, I would have said you were crazy. And yet there was nothing I less wanted to do at that moment. I silently gritted my teeth and said to myself, "OK, you lying bitch! If you can look me right in the eye and deny you're screwing someone else, then I can look you in the eye and pretend to want to fuck you!"
And it turned out I could. What I couldn't do was enjoy it. We did all of the things we usually loved doing in bed together. Lots of kissing and stroking, then me between Marianne's legs licking her to an orgasm or two. I went at her grimly, glad that she couldn't see my face, and determined to lick and kiss and bite her into a frenzy. "You bitch!" I was thinking. "Does that asshole you're fucking get you as hot as THIS?" I made her come quickly, then went right on, stroking inside her with two fingers on her G-spot while I licked and sucked on her clit, until she had two more orgasms and was pulling me up to her, saying. "Please Tom, no more! Come up here and get inside me quick!"
The fucking was much the same. I stroked into her smoothly, regularly, determined simply to fuck the hell out her. I didn't hurt her, but I didn't linger for gentle changes of speed and pressure—I gave her the robot version of fucking, building steadily up and up until I came like crazy, shuddering as I shot into her over and over. I didn't even bother to notice if she came again while we fucked. It was enough that for a few moments, I was able to banish from my mind the image of her lying in ecstasy while some other man pumped on top of her.
After a few quiet minutes, me lying with my head on her shoulder, still not looking at her, Marianne spoke. "My God, Tom, nobody else gives me orgasms like that!" Then, seeing the look on my face, she laughed (she laughed!) and said, "Oh, honey, you know what I mean. There isn't anybody out there who ever COULD give me orgasms like that."
I lay awake long after Marianne had happily snuggled her back up against me and gone to sleep. It was beyond my comprehension that she could have lied to my face like that. Of course, it was also beyond my comprehension that she could be cheating on me, so what's one more lie on top of that?
As I thought back through the preceding weeks and months, I searched for any sign that things were different between us. Any coldness or evasiveness from her; or, on the other hand, any excessive or unexpected affection. At first I didn't remember a single thing—then I thought about our most recent anniversary.
The grimace on her face as she sat down in that fancy restaurant: that was the "honeymoons". Of course it was, I'd seen that look before and knew exactly what it meant. Good God. Had she been fucked into soreness on the day of our wedding anniversary? I got quietly out of bed, grabbed a robe, and headed downstairs, making sure that Marianne was still sleeping soundly.
I sat in the den with the lights off, recalling our sex after our anniversary dinner. My wife, usually so delighted to have her pussy licked and not so interested in sucking my cock, had given me the blowjob of a lifetime, while not letting me lick, or even so much as touch, her cunt. The reason for that was obvious: her pussy was sore, and she didn't want me to irritate it further. Even more important, she surely wouldn't have wanted me to notice that it was sore and swollen.
Her solution to the problem was as creative as my wife was shrewd: distract me with the sight of her in that nearly transparent new nightie, then say "tonight is for you, honey" and blow me to Kingdom come! (Pardon the pun.) If it hadn't been for my finding the panties several days later, I would have forever been in the dark—the typical clueless, cuckolded husband.
It was clear that now I'd have to begin the dreary and banal job of proving that she was cheating—of catching her in the act, or finding something incriminating that she couldn't explain away. What depressed me, and infuriated me, was thinking about what would come after that. One hell of a yelling match, obviously, but then what? A bitter divorce? Months of apologies (from her) and bitter recriminations (from me)? Was I supposed to go out and find myself somebody else to fuck, which I had no interest in doing? How could our marriage possibly survive, not only the cheating, but all the lying that must have gone with it? And for how long now had it been going on?
I put my head in my hands, and I wept. After about an hour, I washed my face with cold water and quietly went back to bed.
It was quite clear to me: I would have to go on pretending to Marianne that everything was fine, until I had absolute proof of her adultery. And her creative lie to me the day before about her panties indicated that she had no intention of ever confessing. I would have to throw the proof in her face.
One thing in my favor was my job. I had a lot of freedom within my company—I could come and go during the day, to see clients or visit job sites, and it would not seem unusual. On the other hand, the same was true for Marianne. She worked in client relations for a public relations firm, and was always going to lunch or to business meetings. It would be impossible to check her work schedule and find any suspicious pattern of absences from the office.
I had a college friend named Terry, who worked in Chicago in the security and surveillance business. It took no more than a friendly 20-minute conversation, with a bit of catching up on one another's lives, to get all the equipment advice I needed. I told him I was doing a project for a commercial client obsessed with security, and explained that I'd need the latest in miniaturized listening devices that would transmit wirelessly to recorders. He said, "I'll do you one better: everything is digital nowadays, you can record to digital audio tape or even directly to digitized audio files that you can upload to your computer and listen to."
No more than an hour after our conversation, Terry emailed me all the specs, prices, and model numbers for what we had discussed. I drove out to a large electronics warehouse in the suburbs and bought all of what I needed. Nearly $1400 on the credit card—but I figured that by the time Marianne saw the bill, that would be the least of my worries.
I went home to our house, empty in the middle of the day, and set up audio recorders in our bedroom, spare bedroom, guest room, my study, the living room, and the kitchen. Each of them was no bigger than a thimble, and easy to hide. They were all sound-activated, so that they would begin to record whenever someone spoke or made noise in any of the rooms. And each was set up to transmit wirelessly to tiny digital recorders I'd hidden in our attic. Whatever Marianne or I did in our house, I'd have a sound recording of.
Why didn't I use video? The answer may seem surprising. As I continued to torture myself with images of Marianne fucking and sucking someone else, I realized that I didn't want to see those images. Knowing about her adultery was painful enough—hearing it, or hearing her talk to her lover, was going to be even worse. I was afraid that if I actually SAW them together, I would never be able to erase those pictures from my mind. Better, I thought, to be tormented by my imaginings than to have to see the reality, over and over for years to come.
While I was at it, I checked through all our credit card bills and our phone records. I found nothing incriminating: no unexplained hotel stays, no charges at restaurants I hadn't been to, no pattern of frequent calls to any one number besides the familiar ones of our friends and family. Marianne had clearly been very very careful. I realized I would have to check her purse, and put a recorder in her car, in addition to what I had already done.
In the meantime, I went back to my office. Alternately heartsick and furious, I managed to get through my day without my colleagues noticing how I was feeling. That evening after dinner, Marianne and I made our weekly phone call to our kids at camp. This was a new torment, both of us being cheerful with them while I tried to give no hint of my despair.
After Marianne and I went to bed, I waited quietly until I was sure she was asleep. Then I went outside and carefully installed an audio recorder in her car, transmitting to a tiny receiver hidden under the spare tire in the trunk. Returning to the house I went through her purse. To my surprise I found two cell phones—the one she had always used, and a cheap throwaway model, the kind that's used with pre-paid minutes. This explained why there were no unexpected calls on our cell phone bills! I grimaced to myself, thinking again of how careful and systematic Marianne had been in her efforts to deceive me.
Each day that week was worse than the one before. I pretended to Marianne that everything was fine, smiled and nodded and tried to act natural, though I did manage to avoid sex with her by pleading lots of work one night, and a bad headache another. She could surely tell I was still upset about something, but she played the loving wife without questioning me about it. Each night after she was asleep, I listened to all the recorders I had set up in the house and her car, and until Friday night there was nothing interesting.
That night I finally got confirmation of what I was already sure of. It was a short phone call that Marianne received in her car that morning, undoubtedly on her throw-away cell phone. I heard only her side, but that was enough to make things perfectly clear.
"Hello? ... Hey, babe .... Yeah, I'll BET you have! (with a throaty laugh) .... No, I explained that last Monday ... Yes, Tom hasn't said anything else but I can tell it's still on his mind. I have to let a bit more time pass before I can see you again ... Of course I still want to! But you always knew that my marriage would come first —haven't I been clear about that? ... Yes ... Uh-huh ... Yes, I think next Tuesday will work. But let's not go back to the place we've been going, I want to be extra careful. ... Where? ... You mean that place out on Route 8, near the orchard? ... Yeah, we were there three times before, but not in a while. ... OK, babe, Tuesday at 11am. .... (laughs again), Yes, I'm sure you will be ready! ... Me too ... OK, bye."
I sat slumped in my chair in the study, where I had gone to my computer to check the recordings. It wasn't any surprise, I had known ever since finding the thong, but somehow this confirmation still shattered me. Marianne was cheating on me! And had been for some time, it seemed. She was regularly letting another man fuck her, kissing and stroking him, letting him between her thighs, on top of her, beneath her as she rode him, behind her as he plowed her doggy-style...
Judging from her words on the recording, she must have called him the previous Monday (after our conversation about her panties on Sunday) and warned him that I was suspicious, and that they'd have to cool it for a while. Obviously this was no one-time thing, no sudden slip into a single night of passionate adultery. It was an ongoing affair, one that had gone on for months—or years?
My agonized thoughts went on and on, as image after image played in my head like some kind of nightmarish slide show. One of the most special gestures Marianne sometimes made with me was a way of embracing me when we hugged and kissed. Instead of putting her arms tightly around me and pulling me to her with her hands on my back, she sometimes slid her arms up over my shoulders and kept them straight. In this way her arms hung out behind me, wrists dangling. Something about that position that was magical to me: it meant that she was embracing me with no restraint, no holding herself back. She was utterly open to me, completely mine. As I imagined her with her lover, the single worst image of all was of her embracing him in that way, kissing him with her arms flung over his shoulders, giving herself completely to him.
That weekend, the only particular horrible time (in a whole weekend of desperate sadness for me) was a Saturday night party with some of our friends—busy working parents like ourselves whom we don't get to see very often. As Marianne and I circulated, sometimes together and sometimes apart, we were greeted warmly by friends we liked, who were glad to see us and eager to hear how we'd been. Sharing the usual stories, about work and the kids, felt especially desolate to me. Part of me longed to say to someone, "Well, actually, I've not been doing so well. Marianne is fucking some other guy and won't tell me about it, and I'm pretty devastated. But what's new with you?"
On Monday I left work during the morning and drove out along Route 8 to the Sunflower Motel, which I recognized as the one Marianne had mentioned to her lover. It was a strip motel, a row of rooms side by side with parking places directly in front of each room. So I was confident that, if I put a listening device inside Marianne's purse, the recorder hidden in her car would be close enough to record what went on inside—the range of the devices was supposed to be 150 feet.
That night, I got up after Marianne was asleep—I seemed to be doing that every night—and took her purse into my study, where I carefully sewed one of the tiny wireless microphones into the bottom. She would never find it unless she happened to dump out the entire purse and look for it.
I also re-checked all the listening devices, the recorders in the house and in her car. But there was nothing incriminating or suspicious. Marianne had already set up her rendezvous in the Friday phone call, and didn't risk any further communication with her lover.
Marianne's date was for Tuesday at 11. So a little after 11, I left work and drove again down Route 8. Sure enough, there was her car, parked right in front of Room 19. Not at all surprised, yet still even sicker at heart, I took a minute and noted down the license plates of the cars on either side of hers—it never hurts to be prepared.
That evening I watched Marianne with extra attention. Could she really conceal from me all traces of her cheating that day? She came home looking relaxed and fresh—she must have showered at the motel, because she didn't go running upstairs for a shower. Her eyes sparkled, her face was full of life and color, and she seemed as happy as ever to see me. For the life of me I still couldn't believe that this beautiful, loving person I cared so much about was fucking around behind my back.
I barbecued that night, and we ate outside on the deck, enjoying the warm summer evening. I was certainly as preoccupied as I had been in any of the past few nights, and I wondered if Marianne would ask me about it. She didn't, and I assume she thought it best not to initiate a conversation that might lead back to the subject of adultery. I think she felt confident that she had headed off my suspicions, but she wasn't about to take any further chances.
While we were doing the dishes in the kitchen, she slid over and put her arm around my waist. "Tom, will you come up to bed early with me tonight? I love these days with the kids at camp, when we can make love any time we like. And you've turned me down twice lately!" She said this last sentence with a sexy smile. Under any other circumstances I would have been hard in five seconds. But I knew—or was virtually certain—that she'd been fucking her lover 10 hours earlier, and her invitation just enraged me. How could she jerk me around like this? Did she think I was a total idiot?
Trying to keep calm, and not let my own feelings show, I replied calmly, "I'm sorry, babe. There's a big presentation first thing in the morning for a new building downtown, and I have to get it finished tonight. How about tomorrow night for sure, OK?" I'm pretty sure she didn't believe my excuse. I could even see her on the point of protesting further, before she decided that it might not be a good idea. Again, the last thing she wanted was for me to bring up my suspicions about her adultery.
So all she said was, "OK, sweetheart. I'll go watch some TV before bed. If you get done and I'm still awake, you come running on up to me, promise?"
I stayed downstairs, more-or-less doing some work while waiting for Marianne to go to sleep without me. By midnight she was out; I could hear her regular breathing from the door to the bedroom. I headed out to her car, got the recording from that day, returned to my study, closed the door, slipped it into the computer and played it back.
Even at that moment, I still had a tiny shred of hope. Perhaps in some crazy way I was wrong about everything, and it was all some paranoid fantasy of mine. Marianne had been so loving, so warm—how could she be cheating on me?
From the first sounds on the tape, any remaining hopes disappeared.
First I heard Marianne on the cell phone in her car. There was a routine work call, perhaps on her regular cell, then a few minutes after that HE called, and I heard her side of the conversation.
"Hello ... hey baby .... yes, me too .... Are you there now? I can hardly wait! It feels like it's been forever ... You'll just have to wait to see what I'm wearing (with a giggle), I chose it for you to see it! .... Well, maybe for you to take it off me too .... OK, in a few minutes ... Bye."
This much was no surprise, as it merely confirmed the previous call in which they'd set up their date. What came next was worse—much worse.
I heard the noises of her parking, turning off her car, getting out, and locking it. Then a couple of soft knocks on a door, and the sounds of a long, deep kiss, as the door clicked shut. A man's voice said, "Wow, did I need that!" Then a couple more kisses, and then he said, "Come in here and let me look at you. You are SO gorgeous!"
Then Marianne, MY Marianne, speaking back to him, teasing him! In a sultry voice, "I'll bet you say that to all the girls, big fella. Can you back it up? Or are you all talk and no action?" Then she laughed aloud, and I heard more kissing and hugging, with the two of them cooing and moaning into one another's ears.
"Let me go, Eddie," Marianne said. "I'm so hot for it, let me just get my clothes off and you inside me!" I heard the sounds of clothes coming off, then the springs of the bed groaning as one or two bodies came down on it.
"God, it's so big, and so hard, and so beautiful!" Marianne said. "I guess you really DID miss me! Let me suck on it first."
"Only if I can lick you too," the man replied. In no time they were apparently in a 69 position. The talking stopped, replaced by the sounds of sucking, licking and moaning made by two horny people in a hurry.
I stopped the recording, sat back, and stared at the ceiling. For over a week I'd been hoping, praying, denying, suffering, wondering. I felt my life had been destroyed, yet I still had clung to the tiny possibility that I was wrong. Now that was over. The marriage in which I had taken such joy, felt such pride and happiness, was a lie. The woman to whom I had opened myself completely, whom I had given every bit of my love and my trust, had betrayed me in the most basic way there is—she had given herself to another man.
There didn't seem much point in listening to the rest, but I went on, doggedly. As I've said, I am not a man who fantasizes about his wife fucking someone else, or gets turned on by it. Every sound they made, every groan of her pleasure or of his, every squeak of the bed, every affectionate word, felt like a sharp needle plunged deep into me. There was no pleasure for me, no excitement, just an indescribably painful sensation of grief and loss.
They sucked and licked each other for a few minutes, until he said, "Hold on, Anni, I'm going to come!" Apparently she didn't stop, for a moment later he groaned. "Oh, oh, shit, that's incredible, oh, ohhh!" Then he sighed, and said, "Baby, you have incredible lips. That was unbelievable!"
She just giggled and said, "I loved it too, Eddie. Now maybe you could pick up where you left off?" As he proceeded to lick her pussy, I could hear all the little moans and sighs, the ohs and ahs, that until then had been part of my happy memories of our love-making. Within minutes she too was coming, saying, "that's it Eddie—oh, right there! right there! Yes, yes, I'm coming!!"
"Oh, Eddie, nobody does me like you do!" she said to him, a remark that stunned me with pain. "Give me a minute to relax and enjoy that wonderful feeling, then I want your beautiful dick inside me." Then she giggled again, as he growled like a dog and apparently began to sniff and lick all over her body. I couldn't believe how much fun they were having together. It wasn't just the sex—their relaxed enjoyment of each other, their intimacy, just tore me apart. It was obvious they'd been lovers for quite a while, and were very familiar and easy with one another. The fact that he called her "Anni", a pet name that only I used with her—above all in bed--just made it worse. Had SHE suggested that to him?
He must have had no trouble getting hard again, because within minutes they were fucking. From their words to each other, I could tell that he began on top, then she rode him until she came again, and then he rolled her over and fucked her for a long time from behind. By that time Marianne was relaxed and happy, on the far side of two great orgasms. She just lay there comfortably, sighed, and let him have his pleasure. When he began to accelerate towards his orgasm she encouraged him. "That's it, baby—come on, fill me up. Oh yes, I can feel you so deep in me! Cum in me, Eddie, now, that's it!"
He came with a loud, long groan, and then there were the sounds of them getting comfortable to rest in one another's arms on the bed. When they stopped making noise the tape must have stopped recording, perhaps for quite a while, but then came the sound of the shower. They must have been in it together, because I could hear their voices but couldn't catch any words.
But their voices were clearer as they came back into the room and dressed. Above all it was their easy affection and familiarity that broke my heart. This was no one-night stand; Eddie was my wife's lover, someone close to her, someone she'd opened her body to, someone with whom she had taken her pleasure repeatedly. They hadn't just fucked. They'd cuddled, they'd showered together. How else to say it? She'd been with him the way she was supposed to be only with me.
When Marianne headed to the door, they kissed goodbye almost routinely, as husband and wife do each morning. "Bye, baby," she said. "You sure made my day!"
"Anni, sweetheart, when can we get together again?"
"I don't know, Eddie. It all depends on when Tom calms down. He's been so moody, it's obvious he's still wondering about me. I need to be very careful for a while. Call me at the end of the week and I'll let you know how it looks."
"OK, babe," Eddie replied. "But once every ten days is not enough of you for me. I get lonely."
"And horny?" she answered with a laugh.
"Well, yes, that too," he confessed.
"Look, Eddie," Marianne said in a more serious tone. "You've known from the beginning how it had to be. Number one for me is my marriage. I won't do anything to hurt Tom, no matter how much I love being with you."
Again I stopped the tape, in bitter shock. "Won't do anything to hurt Tom?" Well I guess you've sort of fucked that one up, Marianne! How about the fact that you tried to pull me into bed with you tonight, just a few hours after you sucked and fucked that clown Eddie?
I went back to listening, and heard Eddie's voice. "OK, Marianne, I get it. Just do what you can to reassure him, OK? I want to see you more than just once a week."
Once more she returned to teasing him. "Sure you can get it up more often than that, lover?" asked Marianne.
"You know I can," Eddie replied, with a laugh. She gave him one more long kiss, and then she must have headed for her car. I heard the engine start up, and then there were just the sounds of driving. There was nothing else on the recording.
I sat in my dark, quiet study. It was 3:45am. I looked vaguely across the room at nothing, seeing only the wreck of my marriage. I must have sat for half an hour, unmoving, without much thought.
Finally I roused myself. I had to prepare for the inevitable confrontation. The marriage is dead, I thought—time to prepare to bury it. I went back to the computer, compiling a new recording of Marianne's first phone call from Eddie and some excerpts from their motel room exercises. I put that recording onto a tape cassette, hid it in a bottom drawer, and slowly went upstairs to bed.
The next day dragged. In the morning I was exhausted and depressed; it was harder than ever even to fake any normalcy to Marianne. Fortunately, she had an early meeting and left right away, leaving me to breakfast and the newspaper on my own.
At work I was so listless that my best friend Steve came into my office and closed the door. "Is something going on, Tom? For the past couple of weeks I haven't been able to tell if you've got the flu or if something is eating at you. Want to talk about it?"
I sighed. Steve and I had known each other for ten years—he was my closest friend. "Steve, I don't feel ready to tell you all of it. Let's just say that Marianne and I are having some troubles."
"Oh, no, that's terrible! Andrea and I always think of you as the happiest couple we know! I'm so sorry. You know I'll help however I can. Would it help if Andrea gave Marianne a call?"
"No, Steve, but thanks. I have a feeling I'll be needing to tell you the whole story pretty soon, but I'm just not ready yet. Thanks for your concern, I appreciate it a lot."
"OK, Tom," he replied, with obvious worry in his face. "Whatever I can do for you, all you have to do is name it." I thanked him, and when he left I did a bit better at returning to my work and putting my marriage out of my mind for a little while.
I got home on the early side, bringing a pizza, and made some preparations. When Marianne walked in I was sitting at the kitchen table, with the pizza, two place settings, and a couple of beers waiting for us. "Hi sweetie, what a nice surprise!" she beamed at me, coming over for a quick kiss.
I smiled wearily at her and opened the beers, and we ate companionably. I managed to entertain her with a mildly interesting story about a difficult client I've been dealing with, and we finished our dinner in just a few minutes. Time to get on with it, I thought.
"Marianne, I'd like to change the subject to something a bit more serious." She nodded expectantly but didn't reply.
"A couple of weeks ago I expressed my fears that you were having an affair. You persuaded me that I was mistaken, of course, so I naturally stopped worrying about it."
Marianne still sat quietly, but watched me intently.
"Clearly it was silly of me to doubt you," I said. "You are my loving and faithful wife, and you would never lie to me about something so important as marital fidelity."
"That's right, Tom," Marianne replied a bit sharply, obviously nettled by my sarcastic tone. "Do I have to continue defending myself to you? I thought this was settled." She looked just the least bit annoyed—or worried.
"No, no, Marianne, not at all," I said. "You've explained everything to me, and I'm fully convinced. It's just that there's something I can't quite understand. Perhaps you can help me with it?" I stepped to the cassette recorder on the counter and pushed the Play button. We heard Marianne's side of her conversation with Eddie from the previous Friday.
"Hello? ... Hey, babe .... Yeah, I'll BET you have! (with a throaty laugh) .... No, I explained that last Monday ... Yes, Tom hasn't said anything else but I can tell it's still on his mind. I have to let a bit more time pass before I can see you again ... Of course I still want to! But you always knew that my marriage would come first —haven't I been clear about that? ... Yes ... Uh-huh ... Yes, I think next Tuesday will work. But let's not go back to the place we've been going, I want to be extra careful. ... Where? ... You mean that place out on Route 8, near the orchard? ... Yeah, we were there three times before, but not in a while. ... OK, babe, Tuesday at 11 .... (Laughs again), Yes, I'm sure you will be ready! ... Me too ... OK, bye."
As she began hearing herself, Marianne was startled. She said, "Tom! How did you..." and then was silent. At the end of the conversation I stopped the tape and just looked at her. She was pale, but looked amazingly calm and composed.
"Tom, I guess I do owe you an explanation about this, but it's not what you think." (The fuck it's not, I thought to myself. What is she going to tell me now?)
"Eddie is a new client for the firm. He's a well-known actor, and he's about to face charges for having spent the night in a hotel with a groupie who turned out to be only 15. His manager hired us to work with him on a public-relations strategy, but he's incredibly paranoid right now. I've been working with him in total secrecy, meeting in motel rooms, and no one in the firm besides me and the president even know we have him for a client. It all seems ridiculously cloak-and-dagger to me, but it's what they insist on. I told Eddie I was willing to go along with this, but I was afraid somehow you'd learn about my sneaking around and think I was having an affair. I warned Eddie that if that happened, I would have to tell you the whole story. I don't know how you got that tape of my conversation with him, but now you know everything that's going on."
I just stared at my wife. Who WAS this person I thought I knew, who could lie so convincingly on the spur of the moment? I almost had to admire her skill, even as my rage mounted at her refusal even now to tell me the truth.
I pretended to believe her story, letting a look of gradual understanding show on my face. "OK, Marianne," I said slowly. "I guess I can see how that conversation might have meant something quite different from what I assumed."
She looked relieved. "Well it's my fault too, sweetie. I was sworn to secrecy about this project, but I probably should have told you about it right at the beginning anyway, and trusted in your discretion. I'm sorry you got so upset for no reason." She was smiling at me lovingly, and I could see that she actually thought she'd pulled it off.
"Yes...yes, it all makes sense now," I said. "But then maybe you can explain what this is all about." And I pressed Play again, and the kitchen was filled with the sounds of Marianne and Eddie in the motel room. I'd made a "highlights reel", since I had absolutely no desire to hear the whole thing again. A few excerpts did the job.
"Let me go, Eddie," we heard Marianne's voice saying. "I'm so hot for it, let me just get my clothes off and you inside me!"
In the kitchen, Marianne gasped aloud. She looked for a minute as though she would jump up to turn off the cassette player, then she just sat back in her chair, staring at the table, looking deadly pale.
A moment later Marianne's voice continued on the tape: "God, it's so big, and so hard, and so beautiful! I guess you really DID miss me! Let me suck on it first."
Next came Eddie's voice, addressing my wife by her pet name. "Hold on, Anni, I'm going to come! Oh, oh, shit, that's incredible, oh, ohhh!" Then he sighed, and said, "Baby, you have incredible lips. That was unbelievable!"
After that, I stuck with Marianne, first with her orgasm while Eddie was licking her.
"That's it Eddie—oh, right there! right there! Yes, yes, I'm coming!!" And after a moment, "Oh, Eddie, nobody does me like you do! Give me a minute to relax and enjoy that wonderful feeling, then I want your beautiful dick inside me."
For the grand finale, I had chosen Marianne's words as Eddie finished fucking her.
"That's it, baby—come on, fill me up. Oh yes, I can feel you so deep in me! Cum in me, Eddie, now, that's it!"
When I stopped the tape this time, Marianne was perfectly still, and as pale as I had ever seen her. Hearing it again had me in tears, but she was dry-eyed. There was complete silence in the room. I watched Marianne for several minutes before she finally raised her eyes to mine, and slowly spoke.
"Oh, Tom. Oh my God. Tom, I am SO sorry. I never meant for this to happen. I never, never meant to hurt you."
I couldn't resist sarcasm. "Why Marianne, whatever do you mean? Weren't those the sounds of you doing public relations work with your important client?"
"Tom, listen. Please. I know I owe you an explanation. Just, please, let me tell the whole story, and don't interrupt me until I've finished. I can..."
"No," I stopped her. I kept my voice quiet, but it probably sounded like an ice-pick. I was as full of rage as I've ever been in my life.
"No, fuck you, no. After you break my heart, after you cut my balls off and stomp on them, after you look me right in the eye and lie to me, you don't get to ask me to sit quietly and listen to your stories. I asked you for the truth two weeks ago. You think I didn't know that story about the thong panties was bullshit? We didn't make love the night before I left on that trip! And even tonight, you had a chance to be honest with me, and you gave me another fairy tale instead!"
"Please, Tom, there's more to this than..."
But I wouldn't let her finish a sentence. "That's my faithful, loving wife, all right! 'Oh Eddie, nobody does me like you do! Give me your beautiful dick!' And all the while he's calling you 'Anni', and eating your cunt. The two of you are showering together, and making plans for next time!"
"Tom, if you'll only..."
"No, Marianne!" By now I was not being so quiet. "You had your chance to be the faithful wife I thought I was married to. You had the chance to tell me the truth, to 'explain' why you've been fucking someone else for who knows how long. You're out of chances now!"
I got up, grabbed an overnight bag I'd left near the door, and walked out to my car. Behind me I heard Marianne, her voice trembling, saying "Wait! Tom, please! Just give me a chance to talk to you!"
I backed out of the driveway and drove slowly and carefully away from my house, away from my marriage, away from my life.
I went to a Holiday Inn nearby and took a room for three nights. That would get me to the weekend, then I could figure something else out. My adrenaline and rage had drained away, leaving me exhausted, empty and sad. It was still only 8:30pm. I called Steve at home. "Hey Steve, it's Tom. Calling you sooner than expected—I think I really do need to talk to someone tonight."
"Sure, Tom, of course. Shall I come to your place, or do you want to come here?"
"Actually, Steve, I'm at the Holiday Inn on 12th, in Room 417. Any chance you could come up and bring a few beers? I'm afraid it's a long and sad story."
"I'll be there in 20 minutes."
I had a couple more beers with Steve as I told him the whole story, from our anniversary night to the thong panties to my tape of Marianne and Eddie in the motel. When I was finished he just looked at me in sad surprise. "Jesus, Tom! Of all the wives we know, Marianne is just about the last one I could have imagined..." Embarrassed, he didn't finish the sentence. Instead, he continued, "What can Andrea and I do to help? Do you want to stay with us? What are you planning?"
"Thank you, Steve. I don't really know yet—I've got this room til the weekend, then maybe I'll find an apartment. As for plans, I've only got two at the moment: not to see or speak to Marianne, and somehow not to fall apart completely. Maybe you and Andrea could have dinner with me in the hotel restaurant tomorrow, just so I have some company?"
"No, Tom, you're coming to our place tomorrow. I insist."
I thanked Steve, and after he left I put out the light and was quickly asleep. It felt like the end of a very important chapter in my life, but perhaps fortunately I was just too tired to lie awake reflecting on it.
I woke at 7am out of a horrible dream, thrashing and sweating. It had been beautiful at first. Marianne and I were at home in our bed, making slow love to one another. We kissed deeply, then smiled lovingly at one another as I stroked into her from above, in the missionary position. After a while there was another man in the room, off in the corner, watching us. I couldn't see him clearly—he was just a dark shape. Then he approached the bed. I still didn't recognize him.
Then the picture swung at a crazy angle, like a camera panning in a movie. Now the view was down from the ceiling. The man, who must have been Eddie, had taken my place! I was standing in my bedroom, watching Eddie and Marianne fucking on the bed. Somehow I couldn't move, couldn't make them stop. They knew I was standing there, but they didn't care. Marianne glanced once at me without expression, then turned back to her lover. She was groaning and crying out, saying "Eddie! Oh, yes, baby, you're the best! Never stop fucking me! make me forget all about my husband!" It went on and on, until she came with a scream I'd never heard her make in all our married years. That's when I woke up.
I thought a quick shower might help, but it took longer than expected, because I broke down and found myself leaning against the wall, sobbing. Eventually I calmed down, and dried myself. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," I thought grimly to myself as I dressed. "Some life I've got now."
After a quick hotel breakfast I went into work, and asked the company's receptionist, Alice, to come into my office for a moment. She was a quiet but cheerful woman in her fifties, and we had always had a cordial relationship.
"Alice, I'd like to ask a favor, if you don't mind. Marianne and I are having some problems, and I really don't want to see her or talk to her right now. If and when she calls, would you please keep a record of it for me but tell her I'm out of the office, or in a meeting? She can leave a message in my voicemail but I do NOT want to speak to her. Likewise, if she comes to the office, please make sure she's told that I'm not available."
Alice looked at me and nodded, a bit sadly. "Tom, I'm so sorry. Of course I'll take care of that. At the end of each day you can check with me to see whether she's called. Please let me know if I can help in any other way." I thanked her, and she turned to leave, but stopped at the door.
"Tom? I'm so sorry for what you're going through—but I can't help but hope that you and Marianne can work through this. I don't think I know another man who has been as happily married as you have been until now."
To my surprise I found that I could work. Somehow having confronted Marianne with the proof of her cheating had moved me to the next stage in dealing with this. It didn't weigh me down quite so much. I had absolutely no idea what would happen, but for some reason I was able to focus on the practical problems of my job.
At the end of the day I stopped by Alice's desk. She smiled and told me that Marianne had called four times. I returned to my office to check my voicemail, and found two messages from her.
"Tom, honey, it's Marianne." I could hear the tears in her voice. "Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry, so very sorry! I would give anything for this not to have happened!" Terrific, I thought angrily—all you had to do was not fuck that asshole!
"Please call me and give me a chance to talk to you. I know you're hurting, I can't even imagine how angry you are with me. Please give me the chance to help you understand, and to make it up to you!"
The second message was shorter. "Sweetheart, it's me again. Please call. I'm just dying, thinking of how upset you must be."
I deleted the messages, and drove to Steve and Andrea's for dinner. They were waiting with lasagna, a salad, some wine, and a lot of warm sympathy and friendship. Steve had filled his wife in on at least the basics of my story, and she was nearly in tears when she told me how sorry she was.
"Tom, I want you to know that the whole thing is a mystery to me. I've known Marianne for years, and she just adores you! I know you must be unbelievably upset, but please don't forget what a great marriage you have had until now."
"Thank you, Andrea," I said with a sigh. "I know in my brain that what you say is true. But I feel like something's been torn out of me—I'm empty, and kind of dead inside right now. Steve probably told you how she lied twice to my face when I asked her about this, and only admitted it when I played her the tape of her and her boyfriend actually fucking. She somehow found a way to raise the level of her betrayal even higher."
Andrea nodded, and said nothing for a minute. Then she asked, "Tom, how would you feel about my talking to Marianne? I wouldn't be speaking for you, of course—just reaching out to her at a tough time. She's our friend too."
"Yes, of course," I replied. "I'm sure she'll be glad to have a friend to talk to. Maybe she'll want to give you the true version of the whole nasty story—she certainly didn't want to tell it to me."
Over the next week or so, not much changed. I went to work—where I ignored all of Marianne's phone messages—went back to the hotel and went to bed. On the weekend I found a small furnished apartment near the office that would do for a couple of months, until I was ready to make more long-term plans. I went back to the house twice during the day—driving by first to make sure Marianne's car was not there—and picked up some clothes, my toiletries and my computer.
One night after midnight I decided to retrieve the recorder from Marianne's car, just to see whether she was still in touch with Eddie. There seemed no point in leaving the recorder in place, so I just removed it from the trunk and drove back to the hotel. The device had recorded 8-10 calls over several days, all of them about Marianne's work except for one, recorded mid-morning on the day after I walked out.
"Eddie? Hi, it's Marianne ... Yes, I know I don't usually call you, but I needed to this time. ... Listen, let me just speak, baby, OK? Tom has found about us, and I can't see you any more. ... Yes, somehow he recorded me talking in the car, and even us at the motel on Tuesday. ... Yes, it was pretty X-rated. He's walked out on me, and wouldn't even talk to me on the phone at work this morning. ... Yes ... Listen, Eddie, stop and listen to me! You've known since the beginning what the ground rules were for me. My marriage to Tom comes first. I tried everything I could to keep him from finding out, but I blew it. Now I have no idea what will happen, but all I care about is making this up to my husband. ... Yes, Eddie, of course it was great for me too. ... I'll never forget it either. ... Eddie, stop. Don't make our last conversation an argument. We knew it would come to an end. No hard feelings, OK? ... Yes. ... Uh-huh, me too. And I wish you the best. ... Yes, thanks. I'm going to try. ... OK, take care. Bye."
I was calmer now than when I'd heard her earlier conversations with him, and more able to think things through. On the one hand, it was clear that Marianne still wanted to stay married to me. She wasn't leaving me for Eddie. In fact, in all her conversations with him she had reminded him that her first priority was the marriage, and her extreme care in hiding her adultery from me seemed to prove that.
On the other hand, her obvious closeness and affection for Eddie tore me apart. A wild one-night stand, or even a two-week affair, would have been far easier to take than having to think about them fucking over and over for months—for who knew how long?
I realized that I still had no idea what I was going to do. I didn't know what I wanted—besides to wake up and find that Marianne's cheating was just one long nightmare. It had been two weeks since I found her thong with Eddie's cum in it, and five days since I'd confronted her with proof of her affair. I hadn't talked to her since then, though she'd called the office more than twenty times.
I guessed I'd just have to take it a day at a time. When I was ready to move forward, in any direction, I would know. Until then, I'd try just to keep busy and do a good job at work. Anything was better than spending hours staring at the walls, thinking of Marianne.
The following Tuesday I was working on some spreadsheets in my office when Marianne burst in, followed by Alice. Alice said, "Sorry, Tom, I told her you were unavailable but she just ran past me!" I said, "It's OK, Alice—I'll handle it. Thank you."
At a few minutes past eight I knocked on the door. A nice touch, I thought—sends a clear message to Marianne that I don't live here anymore. She immediately opened the door, giving me a shy smile. She still looked pale, but had done her makeup very carefully. My wife was a beautiful woman—in any other context it would have taken my breath away just to look at her.
"Please come in, honey. Would you like a beer?"
I accepted one, and she led me into the living room, guiding me to one end of the sofa. She took the other end, tucking her legs underneath her and facing me. She was obviously incredibly nervous. All the poise I was so accustomed to seeing in Marianne, all the calm she had maintained when she lied to me about her affair, was gone now.
We just sat silently for a few moments, not really looking at each other. Then I decided to speak first.
"OK, Marianne, this is your show. I agreed to give you a chance to talk to me, and I will listen as calmly as I can. I'm not sure whether I'll have anything to say—I'll just play it by ear. Beyond listening to you, I can't promise anything."
"All right, sweetie," she said, almost in a whisper. She looked terrified, and my feelings for her swung back and forth between deep anger and equally deep sympathy. I had loved this woman for nearly all of my adult life. I had never been closer to any other human being, nor trusted one so completely. What did I feel for her now?
"Now that you're here, I'm almost afraid to begin," she said. "I've thought so many times about how to explain—I mean, try to explain, what I did. Finally I realized that I just plain fucked up. There's no way to tell it that will make it any less awful, any less selfish, any less unfair to you. So I'm just going to go ahead and tell it, however it comes out. I know you'll never forgive me—if you ever do—until I've done that."
"But before that, Tom, comes the most important thing. Everything I did—cheating with Eddie, lying to you—was totally my fault. You have been the best, most wonderful and loving husband any woman could have. I love you completely. I have never been unhappy in our marriage, or unsatisfied with our sex life together. You are a caring and exciting lover, and I love making love with you. None of this, none of what I did, had anything to do with dissatisfaction with you. Please believe me!"
I didn't say anything in reply, just nodded. But I liked what she had said.
"OK then." She seemed to be gathering her courage. "I have never—NEVER—done anything with any other man before Eddie. I was completely faithful to you until then, and I wanted to make sure you knew that. I met Eddie last August. He..."
I angrily interrupted. "You've been fucking that jerk for nearly a YEAR?!"
"No, Tom, no! Please listen! No, I haven't—just give me a chance to tell it, OK?"
"Sorry," I said. "I'll try not to interrupt again. Go ahead."
"I met Eddie in the hospital last August. You remember when my mother had surgery, and I pretty much lived in the waiting room for three days until she was out of danger? Well Eddie's brother was dying the same week, of lung cancer. He and I just began talking—two worried, sad people in the same waiting room. We spent a couple of hours together each day. The third afternoon, the nurse came to tell Eddie that his brother had died. He began to cry, and I was there to comfort him. I just held him in my arms for a while. His parents are dead, so this was his only close relative left, and ... I guess you get the picture."
I only nodded, and she went on. "That's all there was then, Tom—just two strangers, and a bit of comfort. I never thought I'd even see Eddie again, and I hardly thought about him after that. Until November."
She stopped and looked at me, perhaps afraid of another outburst. I silently did the math: November to July is still nine months of fucking my wife! But I said nothing, and let her continue.
"It was when you were on that four-day business trip in Phoenix. On the Friday night I had plans to go out with Susan and Whitney (two of Marianne's unmarried friends from her office), and they dragged me to a disco they liked. It was loud, and packed full of people, and lots of fun. You know Susan and Whitney—they love to flirt, and the three of us got lots of male attention. We had some drinks, danced with a lot of guys, and enjoyed ourselves."
"Around 11 we were sitting at our table when Eddie walked in with some friends of his. He spotted me, and brought his group over. I was genuinely glad to see him! I had felt so bad for him when his brother died; now he looked a lot more cheerful. We all made introductions, and they sat and drank with us, and we did lots of dancing. Since you were away I wasn't worried about the time, and it got kind of hot and I got kind of drunk, and ..."
She broke off. "Oh, Tom, I HATE this! It must seem so tawdry and dishonest and just plain STUPID, listening to me! But I swore to myself I would tell you every bit of the story that you want to hear. I will never lie to you again, and I will never fudge the story a little so I don't look quite so bad."
"All of us had done some fast dancing and some slow dancing, switching partners a lot. Two of Eddie's friends were making real progress with Susan and Whitney, and I guess Eddie was focusing more and more on me. I wasn't aware of that in particular, but when I think about it he managed to get me for several slow dances, and he was holding me very close. I felt his erection, but it just seemed kind of flattering, rather than any sort of dangerous situation."
"I realize you've never even seen Eddie. He's younger than we are—29. It's not that he's all that great-looking. He's shorter than you, medium height, medium build. Not bad, but he's not buff or anything, and wouldn't stand out in a crowd. Just a nice, ordinary guy."
I just listened, waiting for Marianne to get to the part that I knew was coming.
"We all got really hot from dancing. There was an open side door to the alley, and I told the group I was going out there for a minute to cool off. Eddie said he'd come along too. Standing outside in the dark, we were just laughing and joking, enjoying the cooler air; and then all of a sudden Eddie took me in his arms and kissed me."
She stopped. Clearly what she had to say next was difficult for her, and she glanced fearfully at me. "It's all right, Marianne. Go ahead—I have some idea what's coming next, and I've got to know. You might as well give me the whole story, with the nasty details."
"OK, honey. Thank you for listening so patiently. This is just awful for me, and for you it must be ten times worse." She was nearly in tears, but trying hard to stay in control.
"Well he just kissed me, taking me completely by surprise, and before I knew it he had pressed me up against the wall and plastered his body against mine. I was about to cry out, push him away, slap him—and I just didn't. I was drunk, and thinking slowly, and ... and it just felt good. I liked kissing him, liked feeling his body and his hard-on pressing tightly up against me. And instead of pushing him away, I kissed him back. I put my arms around him, kissed him back, and let him stick his tongue in my mouth."
I could tell she was struggling to go on. I waited, quietly. There was nothing I could hear that could possibly be worse than what I had already imagined a thousand times.
"Well, we just ... went at it. Right there in the alley. You remember, Tom, that night before we were married, when we were a little drunk and we ... made love behind the bandshell in the park, while there was a concert going on? And it was outside, and someone could have wandered back there and seen us, and ... it was an incredible turn-on? Well, this was like that. Eddie had his hands all over me, one on my breast and the other up under my skirt, and I just wasn't thinking about anything except what he was doing to me. He was so excited and eager, breathing really hard, and it turned me on. My nipples got hard, and he was pinching them. He kept murmuring about how gorgeous I was, how I was the sexiest woman he had ever seen."
"He got his ... cock out, and I held it. It was so hard, and so hot! I began to stroke it, and he groaned into my ear. And his fingers were inside me, and I was soaking. His touch down there was driving me crazy. And then he pulled my skirt up, pushed my panties to the side, and just ... entered me." Marianne had turned away from me by now, and was looking across the room. She couldn't face me.
"We did it, there in the alley. He fucked me. He kept pushing me back against the wall, and humping at me like mad, grabbing my ass cheeks and pushing his tongue deep into my mouth. The two of us could hardly breathe. It was hot and exciting and nasty, and I came like crazy, and so did he. It was probably all over in about five minutes. And afterwards we clung to each other, and giggled. It just seemed so crazy! He kept whispering to me how hot I was, and how turned on he had been. And then we adjusted our clothes, and without really saying anything, we went back inside and rejoined our friends. They didn't even seem to notice we had been gone."
There was silence. I could tell that it had taken a lot out of Marianne to confess this much. I was angry, and I wanted to throw accusations and harsh words in her face—but I also knew that I had to hear the rest of the story. So I just quietly said, "OK, Marianne, go on. What happened after that?"
"Well, I was absolutely certain that would be the end of it. After another hour Susan and Whitney and I left, with no further kisses or anything from Eddie. They dropped me off here, and I collapsed into bed. When I woke up I felt incredibly guilty, but also somehow not guilty, you know?"
"It's hard to explain. The whole experience, out there in the alley, had been so ... out of context, separate from all the rest of my life, and our lives together, that it almost didn't seem to count. I knew I had committed adultery, I knew that I had been unfaithful to you, and that that was a terrible thing. Yet at the same time it just seemed kind of unreal, like a dream I had. And I knew you'd never find out, and I knew I'd never do it again, so I just sort of let it slide out of my mind. And I kind of imagined—I'm sure I thought of this so I'd feel less guilty—that the same thing might have happened to you on a business trip sometime, something fast and dirty and meaningless, and that I never would even have known."
"I never did that," I said, quietly but coldly. "Not once. And it's not like I never had chances. Once on a trip there was ... well, never mind. It's not important."
"I know, Tom," Marianne said. She was crying now. "I know how faithful you are, how you never would cheat on me like that. It was just a thought I had, so I could feel better about what I did."
"Then you came home from Phoenix that Sunday, and I was just so glad to see you. And we made love, and you were terrific, so passionate and loving and sweet. And that made my guilt flare up, but it also reassured me that nothing had changed, that you and I were still fine."
It was growing dark outside, and I could no longer see my wife's face. I quietly got up and turned on a couple of table lamps, then returned to my seat. Somehow the slow pace of her narration was keeping me calmer, almost like I was hypnotized. What she was telling me was incredibly painful, but at the same time I felt sort of anesthetized.
"I didn't have the slightest thought of ever seeing Eddie again, let alone ... having an affair with him. I ran into him in the supermarket a couple of weeks later, and didn't feel the slightest thrill. A flush of guilt, actually—but no excitement. We had a casual, five-minute conversation and went our separate ways. But I had happened to mention that you were going away again, and that got Eddie thinking."
"The next week Susan called, and I agreed to go out dancing with her on Saturday. This was in early December. She somehow knew you'd be away, though I hadn't told her. We tried a new club, and lo and behold, Eddie was there, with Jack, the friend of his who had been hitting on Susan. It turns out that Susan and Jack had started dating. Well, I found out later that this whole evening was a set-up. Eddie told Jack, who told Susan that you'd be away, and to invite me out dancing with her at that particular club."
"Tom," Marianne said in a pleading voice, and I looked at her. "This is the hardest part. What I did before that ... it was stupid, incredibly careless and stupid, but ... at least it was ... you, know, spontaneous." Her voice trembled. "A sudden burst of insanity, that I almost imagine you could eventually forgive. But what I did that Saturday night ... I don't have any excuse for. I'm ashamed. I hate myself for what I did, and that's the simple truth."
She seemed to wait for me to answer, but no words came to me. I managed to nod, and she went on.
"We all danced, and drank a bit, and had a good time. And when Susan said she was leaving with Jack, I knew I should let them drop me at home—but I didn't. I stayed with Eddie. I was having fun, and I wanted it to continue."
"Tom, we ... we went back to his apartment, and I spent the night with him. We had sex a lot ... several times. There was something about the wrongness of it, the dirtiness of it, that excited me, knowing that I was cheating on you, that this was ... sex with a man who wasn't my husband. Eddie is a bit younger, he's ... only 29, as I said, and the fact that he was so full of desire for a lady of nearly 40 was flattering. I was more ... more vocal than I usually am with you, and ... well, it was very exciting. I ... I, I came a lot."
Feeling absolutely numb, I spoke up for the first time in a while. "Marianne, at some point I may ask you more questions about that night." She hung her head, but nodded. "But for now, just go ahead with your story."
"When I left his apartment the next day ... oh Tom, I'm so sorry!" She wept into her hands, her shoulders shaking, and I silently waited for her to continue. Finally she regained some of her composure, and began to speak again.
"When I left his apartment, I knew I was going to keep ... seeing him. I knew that I couldn't justify doing it, I knew it was utterly wrong, and selfish. But I LIKED it. It had been the most exciting thing I'd done in years, and I liked it."
She looked at me. "Tom, making love with you is wonderful. You are so gentle, and sometimes so powerful, and you are so attentive to my pleasure. And I feel safe with you. But at the same time, after 16 years it has gotten ... maybe a bit 'familiar', or predictable? I'll bet you feel the same way."
"Anyway, with Eddie it was wild, and new, and very different. Not better, Tom! Never better than what you and I have. But different. And in some insane way I convinced myself that this was just something nice I was doing all for myself—the way some women go to a beauty spa, or treat themselves into a new outfit. I know that's crazy! But that's what I kept telling myself."
"From the very beginning, I told Eddie that I would do whatever it took to keep our ... relationship a secret. I told him I loved you—that this ... affair had nothing to do with that. I wanted my marriage to last, and my seeing him would never interfere with that."
"It was easy to arrange meetings, because my work schedule is so variable. I can be out of the office for hours without anyone thinking anything about it. I got a throw-away cell phone, and I only talked to Eddie on that, never on our other phones. We met at different places—but NEVER here, Tom, never in our house! I just wouldn't do that! It was motels, different ones. We didn't get too regular, because I didn't want our faces to be familiar to anyone."
As Marianne spoke I had gotten up and begun pacing around the room, without even noticing that I was doing it. The first part of her story hurt me, but in some way it soothed me as well. It made a kind of sense. I could imagine Marianne having fun dancing with her friends, and then the crazy spontaneity of sex outside with Eddie. Perhaps I might even have been able to forgive that.
What was still too hard to bear—what made me clench my fists in fury—was what happened afterwards. She had made a calm, cold-blooded decision to keep the relationship going. She knew what she was doing, she knew how it would destroy me if I found out, and she did it anyway.
I turned and faced her. "Is there more, Marianne?" My voice came out rougher, harsher than I had expected. She shrank back from me, her eyes wide.
"N-no, honey," she answered, fearfully. "I'll answer any question you ask, tell you anything you want to know, but not really. We ... kept getting together, sometimes twice or three times a week, sometimes less. It depended on my work, and on your business trips. I never let my ... meetings with Eddie interfere with any plans you and I had."
She looked up at me, suddenly even more worried. "Tom, there is one more thing. When you were away on business trips I ... usually spent the night at Eddie's apartment. That way we didn't have to get a motel room, and ... we had more time together."
This hurt. A lot. In light of everything else, I didn't understand why the thought of Marianne in Eddie's bed all night was so much worse than her in bed with him for a couple of afternoon hours in a motel room, but it was. Maybe it stemmed from the relaxed familiarity I heard on the tape. Somehow it wasn't just the sex—it was hearing them together, being easy and fond with each other. I could almost see them in Eddie's apartment. Greeting each other excitedly, passionately fucking, then relaxing, sharing dinner or a couple of beers, watching TV together, then more sex ... then sleeping cuddled up, with more sex during the night or the next morning.
It was that picture of happy intimacy—the intimacy that I thought she had shared only with me—that made my anger boil up again.
"Well, Marianne, it's quite a story." I spoke coldly. She sat with her head down, not replying. She could surely tell that angry words were coming. I felt desperate to hurt her, or at least to make sure that she understood how deeply hurt I was feeling.
"Do you love him?" She looked at me in shock. "Of course not! It was never anything like that!"
"OK, then," I replied coldly. "Suppose you tell me just how you do feel about the man you were fucking and sucking for eight months, and spending the night with on a regular basis. Are the two of you 'friends'? Are you 'fond' of him? Is he a 'special person' you 'really care about'? Is there a 'unique bond' between you, a 'special closeness'?"
I spat these phrases at her, and she started to cry again.
"I know I deserve this, Tom. I deserve whatever you want to say to me, whatever you want to do. I don't know if I can say how I felt about him. Like a ... friend, I guess. OK, the truth: I WAS fond of him. I felt close to him—after all we had been sharing ... intimacies for several months."
I wanted to shout at her that I'd heard the fondness on the tape—that that fondness was the single biggest thing that was tearing my guts out. But I wasn't ready to confess that yet. Instead I had one final angry question for her.
"OK, Marianne. You said you told him that the marriage came first, that you would never let your ... 'get-togethers' with Eddie interfere with anything in our married life together. Have I got that right?" She nodded.
"Well, then, perhaps you could explain to me why you fucked him—you cheated on me—the day of our 16th wedding anniversary! Perhaps you could help me understand why he fucked you so thoroughly that day that you had the "honeymoons". Perhaps there's some good reason why you were so sore that night that you wouldn't let me fuck you—on our wedding anniversary!"
My heart was racing so fast as I drove away that I had to force myself to slow down, to breathe deeply, not to drive 80 mph or run through red lights. I had no idea where I was going, no idea what I was going to do next.
It almost made me laugh. "I don't know what to do in the next five minutes; and I don't know what to do with the rest of my life."
At that moment there were only two things I was sure of. The first was that I still loved Marianne. I still wanted, despite everything, to be married to her.
But the second was that I absolutely could not imagine any way of getting past what she had done. I couldn't even begin to see how I could get over this, how I could stop being so angry and hurt that I wanted just to yell at her, to make her cry.
How would I ever be able to make love to her again? Even thinking about kissing her, I heard her in my mind kissing Eddie, or saying "God, it's so big, and so hard, and so beautiful!" I imagined them in the shower together, or lounging around Eddie's apartment after sex, relaxing and looking forward to the next time.
She had taken something she promised to share only with me—her most personal, intimate and vulnerable self—and given it to another man. No matter what else ever happened between us, it could never be just for me again.
It was even clearer to me now than before that it wasn't the fucking itself that mainly mattered. Had she just had that hot quickie outside the dance club, I know I would have been able to get over it. Not without some serious anger and pain, but I'm certain I could have put it behind me. And if I felt it necessitated some revenge, by way of a quickie with someone else on my part, well then Marianne would just have had to deal with it.
But the sustained relationship she had had with Eddie—the familiarity and intimacy that had developed between them over eight months—the depth of that betrayal took my breath away.
And there was an additional element: the sense of humiliation I felt at having been deceived for so long. For eight months my wife had been happily having sex with me, sharing caresses and loving words with me. Then she'd been getting out of my bed and going off to do the same thing with another man. How could she not have been thinking of him, some of the time she was making love with me? How could she not have started to think less of me, knowing that she had this secret, this power over me?
I found myself driving past a bar on Front St. that I had been in a few times before. For lack of anything better to do, I went in, sat at the bar, and had a beer. On the TV the Indians game was in the 4th inning. They were already losing by six runs. "Typical," I said to myself, thinking that my life was going sort of like the Indians game—or their season.
After two beers, I got up and headed back to my apartment. I had considered getting drunk, but it didn't appeal to me. I realized on the drive that I hadn't even looked around the bar to see if there were any women there. It may be that some cuckolded husbands immediately think of revenge, of tearing off a piece with someone else, but that didn't seem to interest me at all.
That night I had another nightmare, worse than the previous one. Marianne and I were in our bedroom, making love. First she was lying back, purring happily, smiling at me, as I sucked on her nipples and caressed her pussy with my fingers. Then, at her urging, I climbed onto her and began to fuck her gently in the missionary position. It was unhurried and relaxed, and we were both enjoying it. But after a couple of minutes I looked around and realized that our bed was now on a stage in an auditorium, and the hall was filled with hundreds of people watching us. I began to feel pressure to please Marianne, and I fucked her more energetically, kissing her and licking her neck. But something had changed—she was no longer enjoying it, and the harder I tried to give her pleasure, the more bored she looked.
Then suddenly a man with a clipboard came up to the bed, shouted "Time!", and a couple of guys pulled me out of the bed and off to the side. Another man walked onto the stage, his erect cock waving in front of him, and jumped into bed with Marianne. She greeted him eagerly, with an excited smile, and in no time they were fucking. From the very beginning Marianne was more enthusiastic and involved with him than she had been with me. He was getting her more and more excited, and her moans were so loud they could be heard throughout the auditorium. She looked only at him, never once even glancing at me. With each of his thrusts she rotated her hips, trying to get him deeper into her. I could hear the audience's rising excitement. Just as the man with the clipboard approached the bed she reached an enormous orgasm, crying out "Oh my God! Oh Eddie! My God! yes, fuck me!" It seemed that Eddie came just as she did.
After the two lovers collapsed in each other's arms, the clipboard man called "Time!" and the audience burst into a sustained ovation. They got up from the bed, naked and sweaty, waved to the audience with big grins on their faces, and walked off-stage arm in arm, leaving me forgotten and alone on the other side of the stage.
When I woke up I was agitated and disoriented. As sometimes happens after nightmares, it took a minute or two before I had any idea where I was, and before I realized that it had just been an awful dream. I dragged myself into the shower and tried to calm down.
When I got to work my friend Steve intercepted me before I even reached my office. "How are you, Tom? Andrea and I have been thinking of you. Have you got a minute?"
He came into my office and shut the door. "Is there anything we can do, Tom?"
I shook my head. "Thanks, Steve. I'm okay. I'm certainly not happy, but I'm surviving."
He said, "I wanted you to know that Andrea spoke to Marianne last night—it must have been after you left the house. They had a long conversation, and Andrea wondered if she could have lunch with you and tell you about it."
I thought for a minute. "I guess that's OK, Steve. Why don't you ask her to meet me here at 12:30. Do you want to join us?"
"I don't think so. I have the feeling that it will be easier for Andrea to talk to you without anyone else there—even me."
I thanked Steve and tried to focus on my work for the rest of the morning.
When Andrea arrived, we went to a luncheonette nearby and ordered, then she sat back and looked at me.
"Tom, you know I am so very sorry about what has happened. And I want to help, but I don't want to do anything that feels intrusive and inappropriate to you. Steve and I care about both you and Marianne, and we are just so sad for you both."
"Thank you, Andrea. I know you care for both of us, and I certainly don't mind your having talked to Marianne. I'm angry at her, but I love her too—I don't want her to lose her friends over this."
Andrea paused for a moment, then spoke. "Would it be all right if I told you some of what Marianne and I discussed last night?" I nodded.
"Well, Tom, as you must know she's absolutely devastated. One of the things you may not realize is that throughout this affair, she was completely convinced that you would never find out about it. Of course she knew the cheating was wrong—it was terrible, Tom! I still don't know what the hell she was thinking!" Her eyes flashed, and I could tell she was furious at Marianne too. I was grateful to Andrea for feeling that way.
"But the way she justified it to herself was by telling herself that you would never ever know about it, and so you would never be hurt. Because of that, she had never thought through what finding out about the affair would do to you. Your wife is a smart woman, but she was spectacularly dumb about this, I'd have to say."
"So what that means now, to put it bluntly, is that she has a lot of catching up to do. She feels terribly guilty and sad, she knows that she has hurt you badly, she is unhappy and frightened that you've left the house, and she's terrified about the future of your marriage. But even now, Tom, I don't think she fully understands how and why this is so painful for you."
I looked at Andrea as I thought about this, and as the waitress brought our sandwiches. An idea occurred to me, and I filed it away to think about later. "That makes sense, Andrea. But it's not clear to me what I'm supposed to do about it."
"Just keep talking with her, Tom. If your marriage is going to survive, the two of you are going to have to discuss every aspect of this, explore all the feelings each of you has, and hope that you can reach some resolution and some reconciliation. I'm no therapist, but I don't see it working any other way. Certainly if feelings of anger or guilt get swept under the rug, they're going to eat away at the two of you until they destroy your relationship."
"You are probably right," I replied. "In fact I've been thinking some of the same things. I guess I'll call Marianne and set up another time for us to talk. Thank you, Andrea. Were there other things that came up in your conversation with her that I should know about?"
"Yes, Tom, two things above all. The first is simply that she loves you desperately. She's beside herself with fear that she's lost you, that your marriage won't survive this. It's not just that she feels guilty, though of course she does. She also is suffering because the man she loves is suffering."
I had to close my eyes for a moment, feeling the pain rush back. I tried to smile at Andrea. "I guess we both know WHY the man she loves is suffering, don't we?" I attempted a light-hearted tone, but I didn't really succeed.
Andrea took my hand. "Yes, we both know, Tom," she said gently.
After a quiet minute, I asked, "what's the second thing?"
"It's that she's willing to do absolutely anything to save your marriage, but she doesn't have any idea what to do. I tell you, Tom, if cutting off her left arm would do it, she'd probably have the knife out already. But she really doesn't even know where to begin the process of making up for this."
I sighed. "Well, last night was certainly a first step. As she must have mentioned to you, she told me pretty much the whole story of the affair: how it began, when and where they met, etc. Hearing it was every bit as bad as I imagined it would be, but at least I know the facts now."
Andrea asked me another question. "DO you have any idea what you'd like her to do at this point?"
"No, no idea at all. As you said a few minutes ago, she and I are going to have to talk and talk. But beyond that I don't know what to suggest. I'll tell you, Andrea, I've thought of some wild things: I could go on an exotic vacation without her, I could go out and get myself laid, I could fight her for custody of the kids when they come back from camp at the end of the summer, I could even move away and get a new job somewhere else—crazy things like that. But they all feel like pointless attempts to cause her pain, and none of them appeals to me in the least."
"I'd wondered about going out and getting laid, Tom. Certainly no one would think any less of you if you did that."
"I don't know why, Andrea, but I just don't want to. I don't seem to have any interest in sleeping with anybody else right now. And of course, I don't have any interest in sleeping with Marianne, either—I can't even imagine it without my mind filling with images of her with Eddie."
Andrea brushed away a couple of tears. "I guess maybe that must be one of the worst things, Tom. The fact that making love together, which could be such a healing thing for a couple, would just pull the wounds wide-open again."
"Yes," I said, "and I don't have any idea if that will ever stop being true. If we can't get past that problem, there's no way our marriage will survive."
We were quiet for a few moments, each of us thinking our own thoughts. I realized that the two things Andrea had told me about Marianne matched perfectly the two thoughts I had had the previous night. First, she loved me, as I still loved her. And second, neither of us had any idea about how to get past our current problems, though we both wanted to.
I paid the check and we got up to leave. On our walk back from the restaurant I said, "Thank you, Andrea. You are a true friend—I value your support so much, and that of Steve. You guys have been terrific."
"All we want is for you and Marianne to find a way to be happy again. Please let us know if there's anything we can do. Would you like to come over for dinner sometime this weekend?
"Thanks—let me think about what I'll be doing, and I'll give you a call."
After we said our good-byes I went back to my office. Sitting on my desk was a wrapped present, about the size of a small tissue box. When I unwrapped it I found a small jack-in-the box, with childish colorful designs painted on it. I smiled, then turned the crank. With a loud "bang" the lid flew open, and up popped a clown head with a wide smile on its face. Tied around its neck with a little piece of a thread was a note saying "Hang in There!"
I laughed, probably for the first time in three weeks, and I saw Alice's smiling face peeking around the door watching me. "This is great! Was this from you?" I asked.
"Just a little something from a few of us who care about you," she answered.
"Well I love it! I'm going to pop this guy up every little while for the rest of the day!" I said with a smile. "Please give my thanks to everyone for this."
I closed my office door. After popping up my new toy a couple more times, for luck, I dialed Marianne's office number. When she answered I said, "Hi, it's me."
"Hi, Tom." She seemed pleased to hear from me, but also wary. I guess that was not hard to understand, given how I had left her the previous night.
"I had a good talk with Andrea today," I said. "Do you think that you and I could get together tonight and talk some more?"
"Of course," she said, less wary now. "May I cook you dinner this time?"
"No, I think I don't want to come back to the house tonight. How would you feel about coming to my apartment, and I'll make something?"
After a moment she said, "that would be great, Tom!" I gave her the address and we agreed to meet at 6:30. Then, without any further conversation, I told her I needed to get back to work, and we said goodbye.
I left work early to get some groceries and prepare dinner. I realized that I wanted to impress Marianne, to cook her a dinner far better than she would expect I could manage. That interested me. I guessed that I was seeking to find a way to feel more in control. Her affair and her deception had made me a victim—a humiliating position to be in. Inviting her to my apartment, like making the dinner myself, represented steps by me to take charge of the situation. That seemed like a good thing. I continued to think about the plan that had occurred to me during my lunch with Andrea.
When she arrived I showed her directly to the table. I had made spaghetti with a white clam sauce (with fresh clams in it), an elaborate salad with mandarin orange slices, and garlic bread. I had considered a nice bottle of wine as well, and flowers on the table, but then rejected both of those angrily. This wasn't a date, dammit! I settled for two simple place-settings, and water for each of us.
As she sat down Marianne looked around the dreary apartment and said, gamely, "this is nice".
"It's just a basic furnished apartment, Marianne. Not much personality—purely functional, though it is nice and clean. You don't have to try to praise it." I hadn't meant to put her down, but she seemed a bit cowed by my words, maybe feeling that I was being sarcastic, and we ate silently for a few minutes.
Then she spoke again. "Tom, I hope you don't mind my saying so, but this is a marvelous dinner! I haven't been giving you enough credit for your cooking! The clams are just delicious, and I love the salad."
"Thank you Marianne. I certainly haven't been eating like this all the time, but tonight I felt like doing something more ambitious."
She looked at me a bit fearfully. "Do you think you'll be ... staying in this apartment a long time?" I knew what that meant, of course—it meant, When will you be coming home?
"I just don't know, honey." I stopped suddenly, uncomfortable that I had addressed her by a familiar endearment. "Marianne, I don't know what's going to happen next. I know that I love you, and I want our marriage to survive." She broke into a smile, though at the same time I could see tears threatening to flow from her eyes.
"But I don't know what we'll have to do to make that happen. Inviting you here to talk some more seemed like the right next step."
She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, and the tears dropped onto her cheeks. Then without a word she took my hand across the table, pulled it to her, and fervently kissed the back of it. The loving gesture was so familiar to me. I remembered that the last time she had done it was while we were driving back from our Lake Forbes picnic, the day after I'd found her panties and first learned of her affair. That seemed like a decade ago.
Marianne held onto my hand; she sat up straight, her cheeks still glistening, and looked straight at me. "Tom, I want you to know something. I will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to make up for this. I know that the pain you're suffering is all my fault, and I ... and I ..."
Suddenly she couldn't speak any more, and a moment later she was sobbing, her head buried in her hands, her shoulders shaking. Without thinking I went around the table, pulled her to her feet and took her in my arms. She cried hard for several minutes as I held her tightly, her face nestled into my shoulder. At that moment I didn't feel the pain of my situation—I was only aware of how good it felt to have Marianne in my arms.
When her crying had subsided, she raised her head to look at me. It seemed that she wanted to kiss me, but didn't dare. She said, "Thank you Tom, for holding me. I didn't know I was going to cry, it just ... sneaked up on me."
Without replying I got out a tissue and gently wiped the tears off her face, then helped her back into her chair. I realized that once again I had taken action —without thinking about it I had embraced her and comforted her—and that it had felt good.
"Do you think you can still enjoy the rest of dinner?" I asked. She nodded, and I said, "Good, because I made a blueberry pie for dessert." I enjoyed her look of pleasure and surprise.
After dinner we took our coffee cups and sat on the sofa in my tiny living room. "That was a lovely meal, Tom—thank you so much." Marianne clearly didn't know what would happen next; and of course, neither did I.
"Thank you, Marianne. For some reason I wanted to impress you. One of the things that has been bothering me about our whole situation is the way I feel like the passive victim. Things have been done TO me. I think that by inviting you here, and by showing you that I could do more than cook a hot dog, I'm trying to take an active role in ... resolving, or trying to resolve, our situation."
I went on. "I have a million things I feel the need to talk about with you—to say to you, or to ask. And they're all jumbled in my mind, without any sense of order. So I'm just going to talk about whatever pops up, without worrying too much if it's logical." She nodded her agreement.
"One place to start is how I'm feeling about your cheating, and your lying to me. When I spoke to Andrea today, she felt that you hadn't yet really come to understand all that I've been feeling. And I certainly know that before we can come out the other end of this, you're going to have to know—and acknowledge —everything that is upsetting me."
"So here is one thing. Not necessarily the biggest or most important, but one thing: you made me a sucker. For eight months you've been fucking another man, meeting him regularly, developing an intimate relationship with him; and I've been totally in the dark. While I was thinking that I was the only man you were close to, you've been able to feel the delicious pleasure of your secret. When I kissed you passionately, or whispered affectionate words to you in bed, you knew—but I didn't—that another man also got to do that with you. When we made love, you could be thinking about how someone else did that. You could compare my cock to his, my tongue to his, my energy or gentleness or stamina to his—AND I WOULD NEVER KNOW IT."
Marianne looked at me sadly. "Tom, I never compared you to ... to Eddie. That was never what this was all about."
I responded quickly, and sharply. "Can you tell me that you never once thought about him while you were in bed with me? Can you look me in the eye and say that you never once, while I was stroking your breasts or licking your pussy or fucking you, thought about Eddie doing those things? When we finished making love, and lay together happily in each other's arms, can you swear that you never thought about how it felt to be lying in Eddie's arms after sex?"
She had looked away during these questions—it was obvious what the answer was. "No, Tom. I admit ... sometimes I thought those things."
"Well, how nice for you," I said angrily. "You had a secret—you knew something I didn't know. I opened myself up to you totally, let myself be completely vulnerable to you, thinking that I was your only lover as you were mine. I never dreamed, if I gasped in pleasure or made a strange face as I came inside you, that what I did would become fuel for your comparisons."
She didn't speak for a minute or so. "That was never the point of it for me, Tom. But I see what you are saying. This is just one of many ways I guess my thoughtlessness has hurt you."
"Let me continue," I pressed on in an angry voice, but taking care not to shout at her. "I'm sure that part of the excitement each time you ... fucked that guy was the fact that it was cheating, that he was not your same old husband of many years, whose every move you could predict. I don't like that one bit, but I can understand it. What is far worse for me is the excitement having sex with me must have brought you, knowing that you also had an illicit lover who did the same things with you."
"I keep thinking of the Tuesday I recorded you with Eddie. You fucked him for two hours in a motel room, then came home that night smiling. You looked fantastic —your skin glowed, your eyes sparkled, you were full of joy and full of life. And after dinner you tried to drag me upstairs to bed to make love, knowing all the while that you'd fucked your lover earlier the same day!"
"Don't you see? Whenever you and I made love, there were three people in our bed. You brought your lover there with us, inside your head, AND I NEVER KNEW A DAMN THING ABOUT IT!"
She remained silent, her head lowered. "You played me for a fool, Marianne!" She raised her head suddenly and began to speak, then thought better of it. We both sat in silence for several minutes, and then I went on.
"Maybe we should talk about the lying now. I can certainly understand how carefully you hid your affair, and why. You are a smart lady—that's a big part of why I married you!" I managed a small smile.
"But when I found those thong panties, and I asked you about them the next day —that was hard to take. I even began by telling you how much I loved you, and how our relationship was the most important thing in our life, except for the children. I assured you that if I had ever done anything to jeopardize our life together, I'd tell you, and try to make it up to you. I went on and on. And then you looked me in the eye, and gave me a bunch of BULLSHIT about how it was my cum in the panties—how we'd had sex the night before I went to Chicago, which was just total crap."
She started to reply but I cut her off. "Let me go on a minute. Then later, when I played you the recording of you talking to Eddie on your cell phone, you still managed an exquisite fairy-tale about how he was your celebrity client, and you had to meet him in secret in motels. You should write fiction, Marianne!" I laughed bitterly.
"So tell me, please," I concluded. "Why did you lie and lie and lie? Why did you lie shamelessly to my face? Was it just so you could continue your affair? Or did you enjoy the thought that I was still a dumb-shit husband, still totally in the dark about what was going on behind my back?"
Marianne waited until she was sure I was finished speaking, then began to reply. There was pain in her face, but she was calm and dry-eyed.
"Sweetheart—one thing I hope you'll be able to believe. I hated lying to you. HATED it. But I couldn't cheat on you without doing it, could I? Especially when you asked me questions like that. Please believe what I'm about to say. The one thing I swore to myself, from the beginning when I realized I was going to keep seeing Eddie, was that you would never know. I didn't let myself think of how much it would hurt you. I should have, of course, but I didn't."
"Instead, I just kept telling myself, 'no matter what happens, Tom will never know about my affair. I won't let him be hurt by what I'm doing.' That was always my plan. I see now what a stupid plan it was..."
"Anyway, Tom, when you confronted me with those panties I just froze. It was a complete surprise, I didn't know they were lying around like that. All I knew is that I couldn't possibly confess the truth, and let you be so badly hurt. So I lied as plausibly as I could, and I was so relieved when you seemed to believe it! I said a little prayer, 'Thank you thank you thank you!' I was just so glad that my secret was safe, because it meant you weren't hurt."
"The very next morning I called Eddie and told him we had to cool it, and be extra careful. I cancelled a ... meeting we had scheduled, and I didn't see him again for more than a week, on the Tuesday when you must have tape-recorded us somehow. I had managed to convince myself that, though you were still suspicious, you had calmed down. I didn't suspect you were checking on me so carefully. I guess I forgot how smart YOU are!"
"Anyway, on the Wednesday when you played the tape of my phone call to Eddie the same thing happened. I froze, in a total panic! Then it occurred to me that I could possibly explain it away—I instantly came up with that crazy story about his being a celebrity client and needing privacy. For just a moment I thought you had believed that too, and I was relieved. And then you played more of your tape, the one of him and me ... together, in the motel ...."
"Then I realized what a total fool I had been. All I wanted then was a chance to explain it all to you, but you walked out on me. Not that I didn't deserve it! I don't know what I expected.... I just had convinced myself all along that you would never, never find out."
"So my lying was for you, Tom—I didn't want you to be hurt. That must sound absolutely pathetic now, self-serving and horrible. But it gave me no pleasure to lie to you—I didn't feel any sense of triumph when I thought you believed me. I just wanted so desperately for you not to know ... I guess so you wouldn't feel the way you're feeling now."
"OK, Marianne. I guess I understand what you're saying. But, please, be honest with me. After I first asked you about an affair, when I found the panties, did you ever think of just ending it with Eddie? Instead of just being more cautious, and hiding your affair more carefully, did you consider breaking it off?"
Her silence, and a sudden burst of tears, gave me my answer. Finally she said, "no, honey," in a tiny voice. "I have been such a total idiot! I was so caught up in my own stupidity that even then, I didn't see the danger I was in! I am so sorry!"
"Is it over now, Marianne?"
"Of course, Tom!" She cried more loudly. "I called him the morning after you ... left the house, and I told him it was over. He argued a little, but I didn't give him any choice about it. I swear, Tom, it's over with Eddie forever!" Because of the last recording I had heard of Marianne in the car, I knew what she was telling me the truth.
I let her cry for a minute or two. Then, quietly, I asked, "Marianne, if I hadn't found out about your affair, how long do you think it would have gone on?"
She looked up at me in surprise. "I don't know," she said. "I know that it wouldn't have been a long long time. After all that time it wasn't as ... it wasn't as exciting and crazy as it had been at the beginning." I grimaced at her words, thinking of the fondness she and Eddie had shown in the motel room, and she cried out, "I'm sorry, Tom!"
"No," I said, "go ahead."
"Well, it was becoming more of a settled thing, and I think it would have just continued cooling off in ... I don't know, a few more months. I think we would finally have just ... looked at each other and said, that's it. We're done."
For no other reason than because I was in pain, I said, "Maybe that's where we are, Marianne. Maybe after 16 years we've cooled off, and it's time to say 'We're done'." I didn't believe my own words. It was pretty clear to me I was trying to hurt her—but I also wanted to see what she would say.
"No Tom!" Marianne nearly jumped up from the sofa. "That's not how I feel at all! My love for you is deeper now than it was when we were married. You are more important to me than you've ever been! The only thing that has been getting me through each day, these past two weeks, is the hope that we'll be able to get past this and be a loving, happy husband and wife again. I will NEVER stop loving you, and I will never be out of your life unless you push me out once and for all."
I wasn't ready to let her off the hook yet. "Well, you've come damn close to doing that already, Marianne.'
She just nodded unhappily. "I know I have."
We sat for another minute or two, and then I said, "There's one more thing I want to bring up tonight. Obviously we'll need to have many more conversations, but tonight's talk has probably been painful enough for both of us already. I want you to tell me about our anniversary, and about the 'honeymoons'."
"Marianne," and I looked right into her eyes, "how could you have ... slept with him on our anniversary? How COULD you?"
She flushed, and looked down at her hands. She must have known I'd bring this up, because I'd mentioned it in one of our earlier conversations.
"I didn't ... see Eddie on our anniversary, Tom. It was the day before. We hadn't been together for nearly two weeks, because he was away on vacation, and ... I guess we were extra horny. Eddie had wanted to meet the next day, which would have been our anniversary, and I told him absolutely not. But I think there was something about ... doing it with me just before our anniversary that was a special turn-on for him. He kept mentioning it while we were together, and ... oh, Tom, I'm so sorry!"
She started to cry again, but I just looked at her quietly. I wasn't about to let her off the hook.
"Well," she finally continued, "he made love to me over and over. He was just wild for it that day. I think we did it four times that afternoon, and a couple of times he was extra forceful and a bit rough. I was sore for the next couple of days. I had been looking forward to you and me making love the night of our anniversary, and at first I didn't know what I was going to do. But I had that lovely new nightie I knew you would like, and I thought that if I just gave you some extra loving with my mouth ... it would still be okay."
I just sat there, thinking. Obviously the turn-on for Eddie had been lording it over me—getting every last ounce of sex out of his lover, my wife, the day before our anniversary. He figured I'd never know what he had over me, but HE would know. I couldn't even be that angry with him about it. I obviously didn't think much of a guy who would screw a married woman, but that competitive feeling was not hard for me to identify with. He wasn't worth my worrying about—if it weren't for Marianne agreeing to it, they never would have had an affair.
My wife was an extremely attractive woman. She wasn't just physically beautiful, she was also full of life, interesting to talk to, intelligent, and lots of fun. What man wouldn't want to have her, given half a chance? It just didn't seem worth the energy to hate Eddie. My anger was for Marianne. She was the one who had stolen something from me—Eddie had pretty much just taken what she had offered him.
"Well, Marianne, I want to make sure you know how I feel about that. It's obvious that Eddie loved the chance to fuck you from here to Borneo the day before our anniversary, to stake his claim on you the day before I would have had the chance to do it. I don't know if he knew that he left you with the 'honeymoons', and I don't want to know."
"But you must see that your actions those two days were another sort of betrayal of me. Eddie came first—pardon the Goddam pun!" I laughed bitterly for a moment. "He got what he wanted, because you let him have it. And the net result is that my wife was unavailable to me, on our anniversary no less. Whatever you may have been thinking as you gave me that blow-job, you can surely see how it feels to me now. That was my cheating wife, doing what she had to do to keep me in the dark. Doing what was necessary to prevent me touching her pussy, and realizing what she had been doing to make it so sore."
Marianne hadn't raised her head in several minutes. Now, without looking at me, she said, "yes, Tom. I understand what you're saying. I am SO sorry. I know I keep saying that, but that doesn't mean it's not true. I was selfish and stupid. I am so very sorry for all of this."
We sat for several minutes without speaking or looking at one another. I had thought about how I wanted to bring the evening to an end, and now I went ahead with my plan.
"I think we should stop for tonight, Marianne. Would that be all right with you?" She smiled at me sadly, her eyes red and swollen, and nodded.
I continued. "But I'd like to suggest that each of us try something. How about if we plan to talk again in two days, on Sunday? I'll come by the house in the afternoon. And between now and then, each of us should try to write down what we think the other one is feeling about this ... whole situation. So I'll try to think like you, Marianne, and write down what your feelings are, and you do the same for me. Then we'll share those when we get together again."
She looked at me, thinking about it. It wasn't an unreasonable request, and I knew that she would agree, especially after having said she would do absolutely anything to make the situation better.
"OK, Tom. I don't immediately see the point, but I will try. And I guess I've spent a lot of time thinking about my own feelings—perhaps I owe it to you to try to consider yours as fully as I can."
"Thank you, Marianne. I'm hoping this will be a helpful step."
I walked her downstairs and held the door as she got into her car. Just before she started the engine I said, "oh, Marianne, one more thing. We're trying to be completely honest with each other, so there's something I need to tell you about."
She looked up at me, waiting. "I've been seeing someone else. Well, sleeping with her, actually. It's a woman at one of the firms we do business with. We had a drink a couple of weeks ago after work—it was two nights after I left the house—and wound up in bed together. And I've seen her a few times since then. I thought you should know."
Marianne's lip quivered, and she looked absolutely shocked. I'm sure she was wondering if I was telling the truth.
"Is this for real, Tom? Or are you just trying to get even a little by telling me this story? Not that I would have the right to blame you .... Are you really ... sleeping with someone else?"
"Yes, but I don't think I should say anymore about it right now, Marianne. We'll talk again in a couple of days."
And without giving her a chance to say anything else, I walked several steps back to the doorway of my apartment building, ready to wave to her as she left. She obviously didn't want to leave without asking more questions, but after a minute she realized I was finished talking to her, and she drove away.
Smiling a little to myself, I hurried back up to my apartment. I wanted to phone Steve and Andrea before Marianne could reach them.
When I called, Steve answered. "Hi, Tom, I'm so glad you called! How are things going? Can you come have a barbecue with the two of us tomorrow, about 5pm?"
"I'd love to, Steve—thanks. But I could I speak to both you and Andrea on the phone tonight for just a moment?" He called to his wife, and after a minute she picked up on another extension.
"I'm going to ask your help on something," I said to both of them. "I've just told Marianne a white lie, and I want you to back me up. I told her that I've started seeing, and sleeping with, someone I met through work. I said that it began a couple of nights after I left the house."
"So you're not actually seeing someone, Tom?" Andrea asked.
"No—I still don't feel the least bit interested in any other women at the moment," I replied. "But I was thinking about what you said to me today at lunch: that Marianne doesn't really understand how it feels to be in my shoes right now. I thought this might be a way for her to experience it for herself. And I will confess that it also feels like a tiny bit of revenge—ultimately harmless revenge—for what she has done."
"It makes sense to me, Tom," Steve said. "What can we do to help?"
"Well, I'm guessing that Marianne will call to speak to you, perhaps even tonight. She can't really tell if my story is true, or whether I made it up just to hurt her. So I'd like you to string her along a little. You can act reluctant, hem and haw a little, and finally admit that you got the impression from me that I was seeing someone, but you don't know any of the details."
They both laughed, and Andrea said, "no problem! We'll take care of it, Tom. When she's done speaking to us, she'll be more worried than ever!"
"Thanks to both of you. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, and if Marianne has called you can tell me all about it."
As I went to bed that night I felt a bit more hopeful than I had since the beginning of this painful business. In a small way I'd taken a few forward steps: I had taken the initiative and been more active, rather than simply letting my pain paralyze me.
I had no idea what the result of my tale to Marianne would be. But if nothing else, it would give her some uncomfortable hours of thought. I still loved my wife, after all that had happened. But I was also still deeply hurt and absolutely furious at her, and I didn't mind the idea that I wouldn't be the only one in the marriage who was suffering.
The next day was Saturday. For the first time in a while, I woke up without remembering a nightmare. I was feeling a little lazy, having missed my regular morning jogs with Marianne, so I took a three-mile run, did some sit-ups and push-ups, then showered. I felt pretty good, at least when I didn't think about Marianne and Eddie together.
After running a few errands, I joined Andrea and Steve at their house at 5pm, as agreed. They relaxed in the back yard, enjoying the warm weather and a few cold beers.
Andrea was eager to tell me her story. "Just as you guessed, Tom, Marianne called us last night! She couldn't talk about anything but your 'affair'. She didn't wait even a moment, just blurted out, 'I think Tom is having an affair with someone—do you know anything about it?' "
I laughed. "What did you tell her?"
"Pretty much what you suggested. I acted embarrassed at first, and I said that you could hardly blame him. Then I confessed that you had mentioned something about a woman, but had hardly told us anything. She seemed really upset about it. I asked her how the rest of the evening had gone, and she hardly said anything. She told me you made her a fabulous dinner, but didn't say much about your conversation."
"I have you to thank for this, Andrea," I said. "Yesterday you helped me see that Marianne hadn't really been working very hard to understand how much I've been suffering, and why. So I did two things. First, she and I are each going to imagine being in the other one's shoes, and write down what we think the other one is feeling. And second, I've begun this nonsense about my seeing someone else. I have the feeling that that will really help her understand what I've been going through!"
We all laughed, but then Steve looked a little more serious. "How is this going to play out, Tom? Do you intend to tell her the truth, or are you going to keep up this story about your affair? And are you thinking about actually seeing someone else?"
"Steve, I'm just taking it one step at a time. I'm still not interested in sex at the moment—not with Marianne, not with anyone else. I was in a bar the other night, and I realized on the way home that I hadn't even looked around to see if there were any women in the place. I think ... the pain I'm feeling about Marianne's cheating has gotten in the way of my libido, at least for right now."
"As for keeping the story going—I'm going to stay with it, at least for a few days. If I get a chance, I may even tell Marianne some of the details about my sex life with this imaginary lady. She's hardly in a position to tell me I have no right to be screwing somebody. I can even tell her that she's better off than I was about Eddie, because she knows what's going on!"
I concluded, "in the long run I don't know whether I'll tell her the truth. I just know that I'm still hurting so much. The idea of making love to her again still fills me with rage. And I've realized that letting myself be the passive victim is the worst thing I can do. Making up a fake affair to torment my wife with seems like a weird strategy—but at the moment it's making me feel a bit better. At least I'm taking some action."
Andrea and Steve both nodded. "That makes a lot of sense to me, Tom," Steve said. "Andrea and I will keep the story going. Any time Marianne asks, we'll continue to be vague, but give her the impression that you have mentioned your new woman once or twice."
With that settled, we turned to other topics, and enjoyed a long and relaxed evening together. It was wonderful to have a few hours without feeling so much pain, without my mind filling with images of Marianne and Eddie together.
** ** ** **
When I got to the house on Sunday Marianne was waiting anxiously for me. She'd made some iced tea and sandwiches, and set it all up on our deck in the back yard. She was wearing a pair of green shorts she knew I liked, and a salmon tank top that showed off her figure beautifully. She'd done her hair and her make-up carefully—the effect was wonderful, and it was clear that she had put in a lot of effort. She looked absolutely beautiful.
I was in no hurry to get to our lists. I wanted to see how she was feeling, and was going to let her begin the conversation. I just said, "Hi Marianne, how are you? You look lovely today! Thanks for this nice spread."
"Thank you, Tom." She was obviously agitated. We had some iced tea, and she fidgeted nervously with her glass, played with her wedding ring, and just couldn't really sit still. I waited calmly, and when she couldn't stand the silence any more she burst out.
"Tom, are you really ... seeing someone? Are you having an affair, or did you just say that to upset me?"
"Do you think I shouldn't be seeing anyone, Marianne? Don't you think it's the least I've got coming, after you and Eddie all these months?"
She squirmed, and looked miserable. "Well, yes, Tom. I can't very well complain about anything you do at this point! I know what I did was awful .... It's just ... well, thinking about you and another woman is really upsetting me, and I want to know if it's true."
"It's true, Marianne," I lied calmly. "We've been together about six or seven times over the last couple of weeks. I'm not going to do this behind your back—you did that to me, and I know how much it hurt me when I found out. So I'm being open with you about it."
"But WHY?" she cried out, bursting into tears. I just looked at her in surprise.
"Okay," she said after a moment, still crying. "I know that was a stupid question. It's pretty obvious why, isn't it? I hurt you, and you wanted to hurt me back. But what's going to happen now? What's going to happen to us?"
The part of me that wanted Marianne to suffer a little was really enjoying this. "Actually, Marianne, I didn't do it to hurt you, and I'm not doing it now to hurt you. I've known Carrie through our work for several years, and we've always been friendly. The night we went out for a drink, after finishing up a project, we talked for a long time, and she made it clear she was interested in me. She's single, and under the circumstances there didn't seem to be any reason for me not to go to bed with her. We had a terrific time, and I've kept seeing her. Why shouldn't I?"
I had carefully chosen the name "Carrie" because there was no one I knew with that name. If Marianne tried tracking down my imaginary paramour, she wouldn't have much luck.
"But Tom ... what about our marriage?"
"I have two answers to that, Marianne. The first one is, you didn't worry about that a whole hell of a lot while you were climbing in and out of bed with Eddie, did you?" She just shook her head, looking miserable.
"And second, I haven't any idea. I couldn't possibly have sex with YOU at the moment. I can't even think of kissing you without seeing you and Eddie together, and when I imagine making love to you, it just gets worse. Given that I'm not having any sex with you, why not have sex with Carrie? I don't know where it will lead."
"Do you think you're falling in love with her, Tom?" Marianne spoke the question almost in a whisper.
"No, I don't think so. If I were cruel, Marianne, I could say that I was 'fond' of her, like you with Eddie, but I won't go that far. I like her. She's very attractive, and sex with her is terrific—she's wonderfully eager and enthusiastic. For now that's all it is. She knows about my situation, and I've made her absolutely no promises."
She only nodded, without looking up.
I looked at her. "We can keep talking about me and Carrie if you like, Marianne, but I get the feeling it will only upset you more. Do you think it would make more sense if we went on to our lists, the ones I suggested we make the other day?"
"I don't know what to do, Tom." Marianne looked thoroughly miserable. "I don't even want to think about you with someone else, but at the same time I'm just torn up inside! I keep seeing images of you ... with her, you know ... in bed. And it makes me crazy!"
"Believe me, Marianne, I know exactly what you're talking about. And there's one more thing. When you were screwing Eddie, you were getting out of his bed, coming home and climbing in bed with me. You must have had sex with me the same day you had sex with him, probably lots of times, and of course I never knew a thing. At least I'm not doing that to you. I'm not putting you in the position you put me in."
She nodded. "I know that, Tom. And I know ... I know that I'm the cause of all of this. I will try not to complain."
After a minute she rose and went into the house, returning with a sheet of paper. "Here's my list," she said. "I spent most of yesterday thinking about it, and read it over again this morning. I have to tell you, Tom—thinking about you and ... Carrie ... together made it a lot easier to imagine how you must be feeling about me and Eddie."
I smiled to myself, but said nothing. That had been the point, after all!
"Okay, Marianne. How about if I start by reading you my list, the one I wrote pretending to be you? I want you to tell me at the end how I did, and what I left out."
She agreed, and I read the list, in which the "I" was Marianne. There were five items on it.
--I am so angry at myself for being stupid and selfish. I thought I could do what I did without hurting you or jeopardizing our marriage. I was an idiot! Now I have caused you great pain, and I recognize that it is totally my fault.
--I am afraid for our marriage. I want you back, I want you to forgive me and come home to me—but I don't know what to do to make that happen. What if you decide to divorce me?
--I don't know how to make you love me again.
--I'm worried that you'll make some conditions for our marriage continuing that I won't be able to fulfill. (Like letting you have all the affairs you want.)
--I'm terrified about your affair with that woman. Will you fall in love with her? Does she please you, sexually or in other ways, more than I do? Between her attractiveness and your anger at me, will you leave me for her?
Marianne listened carefully as I read. When I was finished, she said, "that's an awfully good list, Tom. I am certainly feeling all those things—especially the first two, and the last one! I am angry at myself, and I am terrified. But there's one more I would put on there." She thought for a moment, and then said:
--I'm so furious that I can't tell you to stop seeing Carrie! Obviously I have no right to say that, given what I've done. But I want to stamp my foot and say, You can't see her any more!
I smiled at her, trying to look sympathetic rather than triumphant. "Believe me, I understand that feeling, Marianne. But you're right—right now you can't just tell me to stop. I have to figure out, in my own time, what's right for me."
"Tom," she cried, genuinely frightened, "please don't give up on me! I mean, on us—don't give up on our marriage!"
I went over to her chair and took her hand, holding it gently. "I'm not doing that, sweetheart," I said. "All these painful conversations, all these lists—all this is about trying to work it out. If I had wanted just to walk away, I would have done that three weeks ago."
She pulled my hand to her face and stroked it along her cheek. "Thank you for saying that, Tom! I so much needed to hear it. And I see your point—we have to keep having these awful conversations, don't we?"
I nodded, and after a minute said, "do you want to read me your list, Marianne?"
Her list was actually disappointing. It had only a few items, and I didn't think that she really had managed to feel all that I was going through. Like me, she wrote the list in my voice, so that this time the "I" was me.
--I am very angry that you broke our marital vows and had sex with Eddie.
--I don't know how I am ever going to be able to trust you now.
--I am worried that maybe he was a better lover than I am.
--I am angry that you were unavailable to me on our anniversary, because Eddie had given you the "honeymoons".
--I am upset that you lied to me, that you kept me in the dark about your affair for so many months.
--I don't know how to get over being angry with you.
When she was finished, she looked over at me. When I didn't speak, she asked, "How did I do, Tom?"
I sighed. "Well, it's a start. That certainly was the short version, not the elaborate one."
She looked a little annoyed. "What do you mean?"
"Well," I replied, "you've mentioned a few of the main points, but I don't think you have really walked in my moccasins yet, Marianne. Just for the heck of it, I made my own list of how I'm feeling. How about if I share it with you? The things you've mentioned are all there, so there's some duplication—but so are some other ones that are really important to me."
She nodded, and I went on to read her the list I had made.
--I am angry that you put yourself first. You chose to do something for your own pleasure and satisfaction, even though you knew it put our happy marriage, and my happiness, greatly at risk. If we still had toddlers, you would never have left one of our children alone in the bathtub just so you could finish watching your favorite TV show—you would have put their safety ahead of your pleasure. Yet with this affair you did just the opposite.
--I feel furious that my trust in your faithfulness has been completely betrayed. Part of what made our love-making so precious is that we shared it only with one another, and you broke that agreement behind my back.
--I am humiliated that you played me for a fool. You kept an incredibly important secret from me for months. When I questioned you about it, you lied to my face. You didn't confess the truth, or stop your affair, until I had absolute proof.
--I am angry that you have destroyed our sex life, along with the rest of our marital happiness. Right now the thought of sex with you makes me physically ill, because it is unavoidably linked to my thoughts of you and Eddie together. You have deprived me of the joy of our sex life together, without ever consulting me.
--My ego has been badly hurt. Eddie is younger than I am, and obviously full of energy and enthusiasm for sex. Is he a better lover than I am? Is his cock bigger, is his tongue more talented, does he have more stamina? In short, does he satisfy you in ways that I don't? When we were faithful to one another, I never had these worries—now I have them all the time.
--I am jealous of Eddie. Jealous of all the sexual pleasure you gave him, that was supposed to be reserved only for me. But even more jealous of the intimate time you spent together, the relaxed nights in his apartment, the fondness and closeness that obviously developed over the months you were together. I'm incredibly jealous and angry that you shared your most intimate, completely open side with him.
--I hate it that you took pleasure at my expense. In bed with Eddie, part of your excitement was knowing you were cheating on me. In bed with me, part of your excitement was the secret that you were also screwing Eddie. That undoubtedly made sex hotter for you, but only at the price of my pain.
--I am angry with you for breaking something I don't know how to fix: our marriage. I want it back the way it was, and I know it can never be that way again. Even if we stay together, how can I ever have the wonderful complete trust in you that I used to have? That trust is destroyed, and I don't know how to get it back.
--I'm afraid of my own anger and sense of grievance, afraid that it will destroy our relationship. I don't know how, even if we get back together, we can get to a point where I won't be constantly angry at you, and throwing your affair in your face all the time. What will happen when you finally say, "that's enough, stop hassling me about me and Eddie, it's time to get over it and forget it", and I still can't forget it? For a while you're going to be loving and apologetic—but what happens when you want to get back to normal, and I still can't do it? What will happen when you want to make love with me, and I still can't bear to touch you?
When I finished reading my list to Marianne, there was silence. I was glad I had written it out, and taken the time to formulate my thoughts carefully. I'm sure there were other things I could have mentioned, but the list communicated a lot of what I was feeling.
"Jesus, Tom," Marianne finally said, with a tremor in her voice. "I thought I was a sensitive person, and I thought I'd been thinking hard about this—but there are things there that never entered my mind."
She looked at me. "This has been just awful for you, hasn't it?"
I simply replied, "Yes it has."
And after a minute I continued, "and you are a sensitive person, Marianne. Sensitive, caring, and usually very observant. But somehow, with this affair, it seems you put all that stuff on hold."
She nodded her agreement. "Yes, I did—because I knew subconsciously that if I paid attention to your feelings, it would get in the way of my own selfish plans. So I guess I just turned off my sensitivity." She grimaced in disgust. "Jesus, what an idiot!"
After another minute or two of silence, I rose and wordlessly took her hand. I helped her to her feet, and we strolled hand-in-hand off the deck and around our green back yard, enjoying the shade of the walnut trees towards the back of the property. We didn't speak for a little while, just enjoyed the breeze and the noise of the birds.
I liked holding Marianne's hand. It reassured me that at least I could have this degree of physical closeness to her without my rage and hurt boiling up inside me. Obviously, this was a long way from making love! But it seemed like a good first step.
After awhile we returned to the deck, had some more iced tea, and spent a few minutes talking about other things. I had missed a couple of our weekly Monday night phone calls to the kids, so Marianne filled me in on how they were doing. She had told them I'd been away on business trips, so they had no reason to know I had moved out. I appreciated her having handled it that way.
Of course, the problem would come at the end of August when they returned home. If I were still living in an apartment, Marianne and I would have to talk seriously about how to explain the situation to them. But we still had a few weeks before having to face that.
Then I said, "Marianne, it's been a nice afternoon, but I should go." I considered adding that I had a date planned with Carrie, but it seemed cruel so I restrained myself.
But it didn't matter—she immediately asked, "are you seeing ... Carrie tonight?" I nodded, and saw tears come back into her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Marianne," was all I said. I wasn't going to promise I would stop seeing my imaginary lover.
"Tom, can we ... talk again soon?" "Of course," I answered. "How about Tuesday, the day after tomorrow? Why don't you come back to the apartment for dinner?"
"Okay," she sniffled. "I think I need to talk to you about Carrie. I've been trying not to think about it, but my imagination is making my life miserable. Maybe if you actually tell me ... about her, and about your ... time together, I'll be a little less unhappy and frightened."
"That's fine with me, Marianne." We agreed that this time we'd share making the dinner: Marianne would bring a salad and dessert, and I'd do the rest.
"Tom, would you leave me your list? I think I should probably read it over, and think about it some more." I was pleased by her request, and naturally agreed.
I kissed her on the cheek as I was leaving, and she gave me a sad, brave smile. I didn't know quite how to feel about it, but it was clear that at that moment Marianne was more miserable than I was. I couldn't help thinking that this was progress.
By Tuesday I had started to be more hopeful about my marriage. For a variety of reasons, I felt less devastated than before. I had taken action, that was one good thing. Second, Marianne had had to confront much more directly all the pain she had caused me, and she seemed to be facing up to it. And finally, the imaginary Carrie was making Marianne miserable!